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From the Daily: Students for regents

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published November 14, 2012

As the University’s Board of Regents preps for its monthly meeting on Thursday, the board, as of late, has stepped up the security at its meetings, incorporating metal detectors, a rope divider and a separate door through which the regents enter and exit. Some allege that these measures create an unnecessary rift between students and their University’s governing body. To ensure a direct line of communication between students and regents, the regents should amend its bylaws to institute a de facto, non-voting student regent position in the vein of the University of Nebraska.

State schools in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington all have governor-appointed student regent positions. Some of the positions including voting privileges and some don’t, but the general goal of each is to keep students apprised of and involved in their schools’ decision-making processes. The University cannot provide for a voting student regent position, since an amendment to the state constitution would be required to allow the governor to appoint a student to the University's Board of Regents, as regents are elected by a statewide vote.

However, Nebraska’s regents — who are also selected via general election — amended its bylaws to state, “the student body president of the University of Nebraska Kearney shall be recognized and serve as a de facto member of the Board.” Since the University of Michigan’s regency is restricted by the same electoral procedures as Nebraska’s, the University’s board could follow their precedent by amending its bylaws to incorporate one or two student regent positions. While the students’ de facto designation would prevent them from voting, they would still share a table with the regents, discuss issues of pertinence to students and potentially influence key decisions.

Newly elected regents Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs won on a platform of open mindedness and consensus building, so it seems an opportune time to implement this change. Nearly every governor-appointed regency has either a voting or non-voting student regent position. Though the fact that our regents are chosen by general election may hinder the speedy implementation of an official, voting student regent position, a de facto student regent is the logical first step.

Perhaps the provision of a non-voting student regent would motivate interest groups to propose an amendment to the state constitution in time for the midterm election. An ideal voting student regent position would follow the template of the University of Arizona’s Board of Regents. In Arizona, there are two rotating student regent positions — one voting and one non-voting — appointed by the state’s governor to serve two-year terms. The non-voting student spends their first year learning about the regency in preparation for a second year as a voting member.

Regardless of whether or not a de facto student regent position could someday culminate in an official voting position, an amendment of the board’s bylaws would be a welcome means of bringing students closer to those who make decisions that affect their daily lives. The board — equipped with a newly-elected regents — should follow Nebraska’s lead by establishing provisions for a student regent position in whatever capacity the current state laws allow.