In a resolution sent to University of Idaho administration and state legislators, ASUI declared the need for an institutional Board of Regents to supplement student representation at the state level.
The issue came to the attention of ASUI following the State Board of Education December decision to remove the requirement for student input to changes to the Statement of Student Rights, according to ASUI President Max Cowan. Cowan said this was when he realized the need for better student representation.
“Why should the State Board of Education, a body from all across the state that deals with K-12 through doctoral, be able to decide what the Statement of Student Rights at the University of Idaho says?” Cowan said. “There is another way to do it — for instance, other states have regents for their institutions. Those regents are in charge of policy decisions for each institution, and connects university advocates to university interests.”
Cowan coordinated the Student Voice Petition earlier this year, which he said has been well received by students. Despite student enthusiasm though, Cowan said the case for student representation isn’t one that can be solved overnight.
“First we need to be able to come together as students and all agree, which is a task in and of itself,” Cowan said. “Then we need to be able to mobilize a group to put our voices together to get combined weight by signing this petition. With enough energy, anything can happen. We can get movement and support from all the different institutions across the state, and once that happens we need to talk to state legislature … it is by no means an easy task. But I don’t think the challenges are insurmountable, and I think it’s exciting to be involved in addressing directly concerns we have.”
The resolution comes from Cowan’s vision and was met with full support by the ASUI Senate.
ASUI Vice President Taylor Williams used the example of the guns on- campus legislation that is poised to pass at the state level. She said ASUI has opposed the bill, not because they fundamentally oppose firearms on campus, but because they believe the decision should be left up to each individual institution.
“It would have been really helpful if there was a representative sitting on the board that really understood what UI wants and needs,” Williams said. “Having institutional representation at that level will hopefully help get student voice better understood … I just don’t think that (the State Board of Education) has a very clear understanding of each institution as a whole.”
ASUI has yet to hear anything back from state legislature, but has received praise on the resolution from former Interim President Don Burnett. Regardless of state support, though, Cowan stands by the relevance of the issue.
“It’s difficult for a lot of students to be involved in complex issues,” Cowan said. “Unfortunately, this is why we have student representatives. Not every student can take a week off of school and go to the State Board of Education meeting to see how the system works … so it’s difficult to condense the issues down to their core clearly. But at the heart of the issue, we want decisions close to home, and that’s a sentiment all students can get behind.”
Hannah Shirley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org