…your new dorm building is named after coal.

The CEO of Alliance of Coal, Joseph Craft, donated money for a new men’s basketball dorm at the University of Kentucky, on the stipulation that it be named after coal. The Board of Trustees voted 16-3 to approve the new dorm; of the three “no” votes, one was a faculty representative, and another was the Student Government President.

I think it significant that the students who attempted to influence the Board of Trustees at the meeting where they made this decision were ignored and sidelined. Despite passing a statement to the Board announcing their reasons for opposing the name, the statement went unread and the vote was taken. After the vote the majority of the Board, including university President Lee T. Todd Jr., retreated to a back room rather than confront disappointed students. One statement from Todd caught my eye:

“They said a lot,” Todd said. “They were heard.”

Perhaps they were heard, but the fact that they had no part in the decision-making process seems much more significant. What does it matter if you’re heard if nothing you say will make the slightest difference?

At least at the University of Kentucky, there are some students and faculty with votes on the Board of Trustees. Despite our school’s veneer of ‘democracy’, there are no voting students, staff, or faculty on  the Brandeis Board of Trustees. Keep that in mind the next time they make a horrible decision.

5 comments on “What Happens When Your Board of Trustees Won’t Listen to Students?”

  1. Comrade Says:

    Well Said.

  2. Art Says:

    What’s in a name, though? Also, one has to realize, a small compromise on a philosophical level for the betterment of the university is still in the university’s interest.
    Ideally, yes, a purely collaborative environment between students and trustees would be great, but there’s no precedent for it. That’s not as much of a defense as a rationalization.

  3. ari Says:

    I haven’t read the article, just your summary and I am not sure I understand the controversy.

    “…16-3 to approve the new dorm; of the three “no” votes… one was a faculty representative, and another was the Student Government President.” So, it sounds like the students did have a voice and a vote in the process – through the Student Government President. *And* it sounds like quite a bit of student testimony was offered. That is, students came, said their piece, they had a student representative vote their way on the board…but they got outvoted.

    I can’t reconcile that with “they had no part in the decision-making process.” They absolutely had a part in the decision making process, they just were not in the majority of the people who were in charge of making this decision.

    This doesn’t seem to have any there-there. If the students really, really cared about this issue, they would have made appointments with the rest of the voting body either individually or collectively to make their case before the vote. They would have made their case against this, maybe using carrots, maybe using pressure tactics depending on the situation, of individual decision makers. They would have tried to get the two other nay-voters to work their friends on the board. Did they do those things? Maybe they did, as I said, I’m not familiar. But I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and say that they didn’t do the prep work before to get a favorable vote and that this is one of those symbolic protests (seriously? you’re going to spend activist time on naming rights?) that makes people *feel good* to be a student who *cares about the issues*. Because, from the school’s perspective, dude donates money for a building, dude should get to name it after whatever he damn well wants, including himself. And almost nobody either 10 or 1 year from now will care.

  4. Art Says:

    ari, to qualify the sentiment of the post, your appointment suggestion places students at the lobbyist, vs. equal partner status. Just saying.

  5. ari Says:

    Whatever. Even if you added 3 student body members on that board the outcome would then be 16-6. 13-6 if you took away other members to make way for students. So “equal partner status” doesn’t really make a dimes worth of difference in this case. Yeah, process matters, and yeah, students should be treated with respect, but I imagine you would have to work pretty damn hard to sway the votes you would need to sway in order to change the outcome. So that requires the efforts I was talking about before.