House bill may give Board of Trustees student representatives a stronger voice

By Tara Kulash

Legislation being discussed in the Illinois House could give the SIU Board of Trustees’ two student members a vote in all of the committee’s decisions.

The Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses each have a student representative on the board to speak for their peers. While both members vote on decisions at meetings, only one student’s vote is counted.

The bill, which is sponsored by Daniel Beiser, D-Alton, was introduced Feb 15 and applies only to SIU. Beiser could not be reached for comment after several phone calls.


The student representatives’ voting power is supposed to alternate each year between the campuses, but the previous student keeps the voting power if the governor fails to appoint the vote to a member.

This has led to one campus’ representative to have the vote two or three years in a row, SIU President Glenn Poshard said.

“Carbondale had the voting representative last year and this year also,” he said. “The Edwardsville people feel disenfranchised by the vote.”

Poshard said it makes sense for both campuses to receive a vote in decisions since the Edwardsville campus is growing. He said sometimes there are issues that differ from campus to campus.

“If only one student has a vote, I think the other campus feels like they maybe don’t have a vote on something that’s very important to them,” Poshard said.

Roger Herrin, Board of Trustees chair, said he did not know enough about the bill to comment.

SIUE student trustee Jeffry Harrison, a senior from Red Bud studying business administration, said he thinks the change would be positive for the Board of Trustees.

“Future student trustees will both have their votes counted equally,” he said in an email Thursday. “As sister institutions, this is crucial, as we’ll move forward together as a united university system.”

Harrison said he thinks the student trustees’ opinions weigh heavily at the meetings because they are on campus every day and bring insight to what their peers want. He said he always feels encouraged to share his thoughts with other members.

“(The encouragement) could be from the comfortable atmosphere and respect the Board of Trustees has for its members,” he said.

As a board member, Harrison said his job is to represent the SIUE student voice in all board matters by collaborating on issues with faculty, staff, administrators and students. Harrison said his position has given him the opportunity to learn about the SIU university system and make networking connections. A board member since July 2010, he said he has not had a chance to work closely with an SIUC student trustee.

SIUC’s previous student trustee, Michelle Hook Dewey, a graduate student in health law and policy, resigned from her position last week, said Misty Whittington, executive secretary of the board. Whittington said Dewey was unable to be reached for comment.

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said he does not support the bill. He drafted and sponsored the original bill that gave university board memberships in 2000. At the time, the bill appointed both students as full members of the board but gave neither of them a vote. He said he made an agreement with SIU that he would not push the bill forward for students to have a vote, so he plans to stick to his commitment.

Bost said he thinks the student trustees play a key role on the board because they give good insight, but it could be a conflict of interest if they vote.

“They’re great for advice, but because it would affect them personally on a lot of votes, it’s almost like it would be controversial,” he said.

Bost said the students could be the deciding factor if there is ever a split vote.

Just about every university has the same situation, Bost said.

For example, Poshard said University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has three campuses with a student representative from each. He said the bill may influence the university to do something similar.