How can students communicate with their governing board?
University of Oregon’s Board of Trustees is trying to open the paths of communication with students by inviting several to meet over lunch next month.
At the March 5 meeting the UO Board of Trustees will invite a group of students to a luncheon, this comes on the heels of complaints from the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation that the GTFF was not able to directly contact the BOT during their contract negotiations. Members of the GTFF went on strike for several days before reaching an agreement.
“We wanted to inform the trustees and this new governing body at the University of Oregon about what we’re bargaining for and why it’s important for our members,” GTFF President Joe Henry said. “It got much more important as we approached the strike. I felt that during the strike we weren’t able to communicate directly with all the board members.”
Helena Schlegel, the student member of the BOT, said the trustees hope the upcoming luncheon meetings will give students a chance to get to know the board members.
“We really wanted it to be less of a formal environment for trustees to get to know students on campus and for students to get to know the trustees, their governing board,” Helena Schlegel, student member of the BOT said. “We see it as an opportunity for students to get engaged with the board meetings other than just me updating people and them telling me what their opinions are on certain issues.”
The luncheon is one of the first opportunities for board members and students to speak outside of official meetings.
At the BOT meeting before the beginning of fall term, Henry tried to distribute materials to the board about GTFF bargaining, but was told to email them instead.
Angela Wilhelms, board secretary, is the main point of contact between students and the board. Wilhelms recommends that students email the board at [email protected] and encourages students to attend public forums.
“The email is checked and directed either to the specific board member or the entire group as they are received,” Wilhelms said in an email. “This ensures that board members actually receive the communication as it is coming from an address that they recognize as from the UO.”
Henry and members of the GTFF sent emails to the board, which he said were sent to the board but weeks after the fact.
“It’s a really long, drawn out process and we really don’t feel it has to be that way,” Henry said. “Especially when decisions are being made that affect the campus community directly, the board should be intervening.”
Schlegel agrees that there is room for improvement, but stresses that the board is still new and figuring out lines of communication. Schlegel hopes that the luncheon with trustees will get help to students more involved with their governing board.
Interested students can fill out the online application here; applications will be confirmed by February 24.
“Hopefully that helps to get a diverse and opinionated group that can sit with the trustees,” Schlegel said.
Schlegel wants to keep the small to make sure that student voices are heard, tentatively five to seven students to three trustees. Students will be selected based on their year and involvement at the university.
“We’re just trying to get people from all pockets of campus,” Schlegel said. “So that the trustees can see how many different things people are involved with on campus.”
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