Proposed legislation would permit student trustee voting powers at Ohio colleges

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

Kent State University's pair of student trustees could soon have some clout in the college's primary governing board.

If passed, House Bill 111 would allow the state's public colleges to extend voting privileges to students serving on university boards of trustees. The bill is currently in front the Ohio Senate.

Ohio's District 18 Rep. Michael Stinziano (D) and District 21 Rep. Mike Duffey (R), the legislation's main sponsors, argue the change would correct a lapse in power for student representatives.

"These students are treated like board members up until it's time to affirmatively be a part of that process by voting on matters that are important to the university and the student body," Stinziano said. "As legislators, we know it's the vote that shows our record ... our answers on real issues. That shouldn't be anything less for student trustees."

Of the 33 states that have mandated the presence of student trustees at public colleges, Stinziano noted Ohio is among five where those representatives have no voting power. If HB 111 becomes law, Ohio universities would not be required to permit student trustee voting, but they'd have the option to allow it.

Kent State's 12-person board of trustees includes two students: senior biology major Alex Evans and graduate higher education major Monique Menefee.

Evans is impartial to the change.

"If the bill were passed, I think it would be worth having that discussion (on student trustee voting)," he said.

Despite a lack of voting power, Evans said he believes he's made an impact on the KSU board. He said he gets opportunities to voice his opinions often, and he feels his comments are respected. He noted voting powers might be most impactful for those who don't feel they have much of a voice on their boards.

Most recently, in the KSU board's selection of Beverly Warren as the successor to outgoing President Lester Lefton, Evans said he and Menefee were allowed to sit in on executive sessions related to the vetting process and relay characteristics of a new president "many students told me they were looking for."

"In my experience, I've been able to do my part as a student trustee without voting privileges," he said.

The Ohio State University has publicly declared support of HB 111 and has committed to extending voting rights to student trustees if the legislation becomes law.

The same can't be said yet for Kent State, however.

"Neither the Kent State University administration nor the board have taken a position on potential or proposed legislation regarding voting rights for student trustees," said KSU spokesperson Eric Mansfield.

Menefee did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

Facebook: Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier

Twitter: @jnobile_RPC

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