Ohio

Eye on Education

Why Ohio College Student-Trustees Won’t be Guaranteed a Vote

Keith Ivey / Flickr

A bill that would have given students a greater voice in decisions about how Ohio’s state colleges and universities are run has been diluted in the face of opposition from some schools.

HB 377 would have required schools to give student trustees the power to vote on college and university business. Last week, the House Education Committee amended the bill to allow schools the option of giving students voting powers, but stopped short of requiring them to do so.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Mike Stinziano (D-Columbus) told the Daily Kent Stater that Bowling Green University and Ohio University were among the “most vocal” opponents of the legislation:

“In an ideal world, I think both sponsors — myself and Rep. Duffey — feel confident that every university should pursue this, but in discussion it was clear some universities didn’t want a mandate from the Statehouse put on them,” Stinziano said. “That’s kind of how they viewed this. They felt that just having student trustees was adequate and gave them the appropriate voice.”

Where things stand today:

Currently, each of Ohio’s 14 public universities has two student trustees who are appointed by the governor and who have no voting power or right to attend executive sessions. More than 30 states allow student trustees voting rights.

Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee publicly supported the bill, as did the student governments of several Ohio colleges and legislators both R and D.

But earlier this year, state legislators had asked questions about how giving student trustees more say in school affairs would help schools improve graduation rates, and about how student trustees would deal with decisions about faculty employment, Gongwer News Service says:

Rep. [Clayton] Lucky said he thinks that it is not a good idea to put a student in a position to vote to fire a coach or instructor or on whether to raise tuition.

And some student trustees have said they didn’t want voting rights. Ohio University student trustee Danielle Parker told the Athens News she never felt like she “needed” to vote on trustee matters:

“I’ve never had an opportunity or instance where I’ve felt like I needed to vote,” she said. “I am not one of those people that thinks student trustees couldn’t handle a vote,” she added. “I am not completely against it… Have I felt it was necessary? No. But that’s not the experience of all the trustees throughout the state.”

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