Ithaca College’s having student representation on the Ithaca College Board of Trustees is a notable exception among most private institutions, which often do not have student trustees. But the process behind selecting this representative has one significant flaw: The students do not select them.
Only one-fifth of private colleges and universities have a student trustee, and only 8.5 percent have a student trustee with voting rights. The college falls into this 8.5 percent, and that in itself is noteworthy. Our trustee, with full voting rights, is a crucial liaison between the far-removed board of trustees and the student body, especially last semester, during which racial tensions rose prominently to the surface. The issues fueling these protests are still prevalent, and the board needs to understand why and to what extent.
But to find this liaison, the Student Trustee Selection Committee solicits applications from students, interviews them and then chooses three to nominate to the board, which then votes on these nominations.
At many colleges, the Student Government Association president, who is elected by the student body, serves as the student trustee. Current SGA President Dominick Recckio made a valid point about the advantages of the SGA president’s being separated from the board of trustees to maintain a critical voice on the board’s decisions.
The next common method — democratic election by the student body — seems like a no-brainer. Like in any other representative system, it seems natural that the student body would select its own representative.
The committee serves an important role by reaching out to qualified students for their applications. Once they decide on three nominees, the committee members should feel confident enough that any of these nominees would be able to assume the role of student trustee. At the very least, the student body should be able to vote at this stage to select its own representative and ensure that they have trust in the trustee.