In her letter to The Post on Monday, Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Anderson mistakenly wrote that our Board adequately seeks student input, but conveniently her letter provides more than enough evidence to the contrary.
First though, I do want to thank Anderson for writing a letter to The Post. Through her involvement in university activities and writing to The Post she is at least making an effort to communicate with the student population, which is something that cannot be said for the majority on the Board.
That said, Anderson’s letter illustrates that she does not fully understand what it means to take student input seriously.
In her letter, she cites having a phone conversation with Student Senate President Nick Southall. But with only 2,313 votes cast in this year’s Student Senate election, most students probably do not even know who Nick Southall is. Of those who do, many people – both within and outside Student Senate – are actively calling for his resignation. Even if our Senate president was capable, Senate is just one student organization that represents a narrow set of interests.
The trustees and administration would do well to understand that we as students are more than our student government.
As for student trustees, I do not believe the Board gets any points for talking to them, as they are already obligated to. In fact, if our Board actually valued our student trustees they would be lobbying for mandatory student trustee voting rights, rather than opposing them.
Certainly, Anderson’s meeting with students at National Coming Out Day, visiting students and her nephew at the Homecoming game, and participating in the pre-Law program for HTC students are all nice gestures on her part, but these interactions stop short of having substantive conversations on issues the Board of Trustees makes decisions on.
We as students do not simply expect participation in our community, but consultation about it.
It is also regrettable that Anderson chose not to address either of my two suggestions. Again, I urge the Board to:
1) take questions from interested student organizations like The Post, The New Political, and the OU Student Union and to then provide candid answers, and,
2) allow any member of the public to address trustee agenda items if they notify the board secretary at least 24 hours in advance.
Adopting either one or both of these suggestions would be a small step toward shared governance.
Anderson ends by boasting that the entire Board is voluntary, and while this is true, it does not exempt them from working hard to honestly and openly engage students. I would not appreciate a volunteer firefighter who fails to show up with water and likewise I do not appreciate a board that fails to have meaningful dialogue with the majority shareholders of the university.
If that is too much to ask, students will gladly volunteer to do the job instead.
Matt Farmer is a senior studying education and political science. Do you think trustees give students enough consideration? Email him at email@example.com