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The Baylor Board of Regents will vote Friday on recommendations from a governance review task force.
Among these recommendations is that the current nonvoting regents representing the Bear Foundation, the Baylor “B” Association and the faculty should become voting members of the board. If this suggestion is adopted, the two student regents will be the only non-voting members of the board.
While the task force specified that student regents remain the nonvoting members of the board, there was no explanation provided in the recommendations to justify this suggestion.
Bears for Leadership Reform released a Governance Reform Plan on Jan. 18 and among its suggestions was that student regents should be full-voting members.
Liza Firmin, 2006 Baylor alumna and member of the Bears for Leadership Reform Board of Directors, said she believes student regents should have voting rights and executive session privileges because students are most directly affected by the regents’ decisions.
“The faculty and the students are the ones that are living under the rules and policies that the Board of Regents are putting forth,” Firmin said. “The board is more accountable to the students and faculty than anyone else because, again, they are the most impacted by what is going on.”
Firmin said she believes that if a group has a representative on the board, that representative should have full privileges and that there should be no nonvoting members on the board.
“If constituents are important enough to have a representative on the board of regents, they are important enough to have a vote. Whatever Baylor constituency you represent, you represent a demographic for a reason,” Firmin said. “I don’t think one group should be held over another. Each group brings their own perspective to the table and brings diversity, which is very important.”
Firmin said Bears for Leadership Reform’s main request of the Board of Regents is transparency and that allowing students to be fully-privileged members of the board is a step toward that goal.
Jake Torres is the student trustee on the Southern Methodist University Board of Trustees. SMU added a full-voting student representative after its athletic scandal in 1986, which caused its football program to receive the death penalty, suspending the program for over a year.
Torres said he believes the student perspective on the board is an extremely valuable asset to the university.
“The student vote provides a very strong diversity of experiences on the board,” Torres said. “It’s not just people that graduated from SMU decades ago on the board. It really does represent a good cross section of the university. The student perspective is critical for the board to understand how their decisions impact students on the ground.”
Torres said he thinks students having an equally weighted voice in what happens at their university helps them trust the governance of the university.
“I think every university would benefit from allowing students to have a seat at the table and, more importantly, have a vote. I think it makes our student body feel more connected and have better faith and confidence in the board knowing there is a student on the board representing their interest,” Torres said. “I think it makes it more transparent and makes the board function better by having a student on there. I really hope Baylor strongly considered adding that voice.”
Thursday, Baylor Student Senate passed a bill requesting that the regents grant student regents full-voting rights and executive privilege. Currently, student regents must leave the room when meetings go into executive session.
Cypress senior Chris Seals, author of the bill, said allowing students to vote will only helps further the regents’ goal of diversifying the board.
“Having a vote and being able to influence and having executive privileges really lets your voice be heard more than someone who does not have those rights,” Seals said.
Seals said he thinks the Board of Regents is making good changes and that giving students a vote would help the board strengthen ties with the students and allow the university to move forward together.
“I think if we can get a full-scope view of campus, we can continue to grow and become even more close-knit with all of our departments and all of our sections. I personally believe that,” Seals said. “I am hoping that the student regents will be granted those voting rights and executive privileges, but by doing that it lets our students see and feel that they are represented in our highest governing body and that we can Effect changes to campus that we feel would better campus.”
The task force has also recommended changes regarding input for regent selection, selection of board leadership, changes to the removal process for regents, greater regent emeriti involvement, rotation off the board of the past chair after one year, reorganization of committee responsibilities, and streamlining of committee meetings, according to a previous Baylor Lariat article.