New bill could increase student and faculty presence on Board of Trustees

A new bill introduced by Senator Leland Yee, the California Faculty Association and California State University students could restructure the California State University Board of Trustees by increasing the number of students and faculty that serve on the board.

Currently, only one faculty member and two students must be appointed to the Board of Trustees, which is comprised of 25 members. Of the 25 members, 19 of them are appointed by the Governor.

The proposed bill would increase the number of student trustees to four, and require that three faculty members and two non-faculty employees serve on the board.

“Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees has been run as if it was a private country club,” said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Senator Yee. “[It’s] made up of the richest Californians and their decisions reflect that. They are giving pay raises to the top executives who make as much as $300,000 to $500,000 a year, while raising student fees… The only way to change that is to change the makeup of the Trustees,” Keigwin said.

Senator Yee, the CFA and CSU students are doing this in hopes that students, faculty, and university workers in the CSU system will have more of a presence within the Board of Trustees. The bill would also eliminate conflicts of interest between employee trustees and the Chancellor by prohibiting them both from partaking in any subcommittee dealing with collective bargaining.

“A lot of good will come from this [bill]. I’m supportive of it, it’s incredibly important to have representation from people involved in universities,” said Catherine Powell, vice president-tenure of the SF State chapter of the California Faculty Association. It’s very easy for decisions to be made by people who are not part of universities. Having executives who are not connected to universities rather than having representatives from faculty and staff and people who work in system and understand it makes no sense,” Powell said.

Others believe that there is nothing wrong with the way the Board of Trustees currently operates and no changes should be made.

“I’m not sure what the benefit is,” said Mike Uhlenkamp, CSU spokesman. “The bill is trying to correct something that isn’t necessarily broken. There is a benefit from having continuity; trustees have an immense amount of responsibilities and tough decisions to make.”

Some students agreed with Uhlenkamp’s thoughts about the new bill, and believe the changes will be insignificant.

“I don’t think anyone on this level is going to influence anything,” said SF State student Jessika Iacobellis, a political science major. “I don’t think an increase in students and faculty (on the Board) will change anything.”

However, other students see the benefit of changing the current system.

“If there are more teachers and students, they would want us to lower tuition increases,” said SF State student Martina Morales, a liberal studies major. “They would give our opinion in it besides the people who aren’t experiencing the loss of jobs and pay increases.”

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  • A bill to add a staff trustee to the board was vetoed twice by Gov. Arnold during his tenure, each time stating it was “unnecessary.” As inconvenient as democracy is sometimes it is never unnecessary if you have a real commitment to it. On the other hand, making appointments isn’t necessarily a fix. What if they find the most conservative staff to appoint? Seems to me that the last few student trustee appointments were pretty conservative. Didn’t one of the votes in favor of fee increase come from a student trustee? Is it time to consider elections of trustees and regents? (Although elections can bring their own baggage.)