Rauner keeps student trustees in the dawg house

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(DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

Southern Illinois University students may face another year without voting power on the SIU Board of Trustees.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill on Aug. 25, which would have allowed both student representatives on the SIU Board of Trustees to vote. It has been two years since an SIU student trustee from either campus could vote.

“It’s disappointing to not have that vote,” said Allen Shelton, the Carbondale campus’ student trustee. “The reason that we have a student trustee is to get that student view.”

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House Bill 4113 would amend the Southern Illinois University Management Act, which currently allows the governor to grant one student trustee from either campus the ability to vote on the Board of Trustees. The bill would add a tenth seat to the board, effectively bypassing the process of gubernatorial selection.

Rauner’s amendatory veto spells trouble for Shelton and SIUE’s student trustee Dillon Santoni, who are both waiting — and hoping — the governor will appoint one of them with the vote.

But neither one is holding his breath.

It is possible an appointment may never transpire during Shelton and Santoni’s time in office.

Santoni said the need for student representation on the board is crucial and he would urge Rauner to grant at least one student trustee with voting power as soon as possible. 

“Whether or not he actually will, I’m not sure,” Santoni said. “I can’t speak to his agenda or what he plans on doing, but I think the necessity of it happening would be definitely important.”

In a statement released Aug. 25, Rauner said having another student voting member was not “necessary or advisable” and recommended “no change be made to the composition of the Board of Trustees.” The governor also said the current system allows students to be adequately represented “without diluting the insight gained from the other trustees’ years of professional experience.”

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Santoni said he firmly disagrees with the governor’s decision and his reasoning.

“I don’t think at any time does the rest of the board, or does the rest of the university, feel as though our voices on that board dilute the professionalism of the board,” he said.

In light of Illinois’ current budget impasse and the ongoing discord between state legislators and Rauner, Santoni said the proper attention may have been detracted from HB 4113. He also said he believes the governor’s veto was a “political move.”

Both Shelton and Santoni said they plan to voice issues from their respective constituencies to fellow board members, but admitted it would be easier to represent students if they could vote independently.

“I feel as though the student body doesn’t have a voice,” said Brittany Kyles, a sophomore studying TV and digital media radio. “If no one is up there in leadership for us, then who do we have?”

Shelton said he is especially worried that students at SIUC will be discouraged by Rauner’s decision and refrain from bringing important campus issues to his desk.

“You’re not really giving the students an opportunity to vote,” Shelton said. “And at the end of the day, that matters.”

Bill Lukitsch can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Bill_LukitschDE.

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