Communication between Trustees and students evolving

By: Connor Cummiskey

On Feb. 6, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution to Ripon College By-Laws that discontinued student membership on various committees, according to a copy of the resolution.

The resolution struck paragraphs from Articles 16, 17, 19, 22 and 23, thus removing student membership in the committees on academic affairs, admission, student life, advancement and infrastructure.

Instead, the Trustees intend to communicate via a few channels, the first being a new Student Leadership Council. The name is not finalized yet, but the council would include the executive board of the Student Senate, explains Margaret Carne, special assistant to the president and liaison to the Board of Trustees.

“That’s the current thinking about how to formalize and institutionalize two-way communication between students and board members,” says Carne. “Students were coming to these committee meetings, and they sat in the room but were not really part of the discussion. So, it was mostly students listening to members talk to each other and to the administration. Board members really do want to hear from students.”

President of Student Senate RaeAnn Brixius, says, “We will use that (time) to meet with the Trustees when they have an open format (meeting). I think that they are going to invite more people than just the Student Senate Executive Board.” The meetings would be held during lunchtime on the Fridays before the thrice-yearly Trustee Board meetings.

“There is nothing that prohibits any committee from inviting students to come either to listen or to share views about whatever that particular committee might be considering,” Carne says.

Students would be able to give the Trustees feedback on topics ranging from the curriculum, infrastructure and Sodexo.

The Committee on Student Life may have its permanent student members re-established. “The one thing that (the Trustees) are talking about revisiting is that maybe there should be a couple of students on the Student Life Committee, which is a place where permanent student representation really makes a lot of sense,” Carne says.

Special Graduate Trustees, who are elected during their enrollment at Ripon and begin attending Trustee meetings after they graduate, also may see some changes to how they operate.

“There is some sense on the Board that that relationship – not so much between the Special Graduate Trustees and the other members of the board, but between the Special Graduate Trustees and the current student body – could use a little tweaking,” Carne says.

Their primary obligation is to report to the student body, and the Trustees would like to hold them more accountable to providing the students of Ripon reports of the Trustees’ plans.

“There is a sense that we need to get the Special Graduate Trustees and Student Senate better linked together so that there is a real flow of information from the Special Graduate Trustees to the Student Senate to the student body,” Carne says. “So that communication is two-way, it is not just Special Graduate Trustees talking to the Board.”

“I know that when (the changes) first happened, everyone freaked out (thinking), ‘We are not going to have any communication,’ but there are already parts of the meetings that we cannot hear and we do not get any speaking opportunities during the meetings,” Brixius explains. “So, I think that is actually going to be better, meaning that they are going to hear us more because they are going to be able to set aside this time specifically because they want to talk to us.”