New student reps need to speak up

Some say student reps to the Board of Regents could be tougher on leaders.

Meghan Holden

Student representatives to the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents say next year’s wave of elects should push administrators harder than they have in the past.

Eight students throughout the five-campus system give a voice to the student body by asking regents and administrators difficult questions, but some say representatives aren’t always taking full advantage of their power.

Applications closed Friday for the next batch of student representatives, who will start serving this fall. Some of this year’s representatives admit they are sometimes too complacent and say the newcomers should take responsibility for pushing University leaders more seriously.

Four student representatives from the Twin Cities campus and one from each of the other four University campuses serve as nonvoting liaisons to the board each year. The Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly will select the Twin Cities candidates next week. Some representatives from other campuses have already been selected.

Six undergraduate and five graduate students applied for the Twin Cities positions, and candidate interviews will take place this weekend.

While choosing candidates, she said, the selection committee is looking for students who aren’t afraid to speak up at board and committee meetings, said student representatives chair Meghan Mason.

Joey Daniewicz, vice chair of student representatives to the board, said students need to challenge administrators’ perspectives to ensure student needs are met. If representatives don’t voice strong concerns, he said, administrators might not be moved to action.

“To a lot of it, [regents and administrators] just sort of smile and nod politely,” he said.

It’s the representative’s job to present issues in a way that forces University officials to notice, Daniewicz said.

Joelle Stangler, ranking student representative to the board, agreed and said representatives need to be more persuasive when presenting their ideas.

Jordan Wente, the incoming Morris representative, said while it’s crucial to ensure regents are aware of problems — especially those beyond the Twin Cities campus — student representatives should push for an open dialogue with the board.

“I see no reason why [regents] can’t accept our demands and … have a good conversation at least,” he said.

Student voices are especially crucial in committee meetings, Mason said, because that’s when they have the best opportunity to bring up student views on new policies or other changes at the University. She said some regents make a point to talk with student representatives after the meetings, but those conversations don’t happen often enough.

Even though regents sometimes appear to listen to the students’ ideas, she said, concerns aren’t always followed up on.

“Once something has been raised, I don’t always feel that it’s revisited,” Mason said, “and so sometimes you wonder about that.”

Meeting demands

Despite criticism of their passiveness during the decision-making process, student representatives can still be effective in implementing changes.

Student representatives attend monthly board meetings and sit on at least one board committee. Regents Chair Richard Beeson said representatives’ opinions are an important part of the governing process because they’re more connected with the student body.

Each semester, the representatives author a report, which Mason said is the best time to address large-scale problems like tuition hikes or campus safety.

She said administrators worked aggressively to combat campus crime after the students presented their December report, which said students felt unsafe around campus.

“I think that’s specifying that they are listening to our concerns and conversations are being had,” Mason said.

Stangler said student representatives might be more successful in getting their voices heard if they packed a bigger punch — for example, by having members of the student body give presentations.

“Showing a student presence is always the first step,” she said.