The good news: students have a voice in ETSU’s new Board of Trustees meetings. The bad news: the representative doesn’t get a vote.
The recently-passed FOCUS Act will localize the board to each of the six Tennessee Board of Regents universities. At the quarterly TBR meetings, there is student representation, but each school does not have a student representative present.
Nathan Farnor, vice president of ETSU’s Student Government Association, said taking the board out of Nashville and allowing entry for a student representative for each institution is progress.
“This new local board has a lot of potential,” Farnor said. “We’ve been having people in Nashville trying to legislate in Johnson City. With ETSU now having its own board, it’s people who know this area, and know what students and staff want. They know what does and doesn’t work.”
Despite now having more localized representation, the student representative is not a voting member of the board. Farnor says the representative is there to provide students’ perspective to the board of trustees. This news has been met with disappointment, he says, not only from ETSU, but all over the state. He says the hope is for the ETSU SGA to attain a vote for the representative by the first local board meeting, tentatively set for this coming April.
“I disagree with us not getting a vote,” Farnor said. “We were finally given a chance to govern our own school, but students still are not properly represented.”
ETSU faculty will have a representative permitted to vote, but university staff is without representation. The other eight spots on the board are made up of community leaders selected by Governor Bill Haslam. Farnor places importance on the idea of accountability; for instance, the trustees voting mine-against-one against a student could possibly cast the board in a negative light. This might make the board more seriously consider the issues raised by the student representative.
These concerns are at the forefront of the SGA, as Farnor reinforces the one goal in mind.
“Our student vote can serve as accountability and ensure the students are equally represented,” he added. “It’d be an opportunity to show the board how we feel at the end of the day. I mean, we are a university — a student vote should go without saying.”