The Arizona Desert Lamp

Putting the “student” back into the “student regent”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 13 October 2009

The deadline for submitting your student regent application is less than a week away – have you sent in yours yet? Of course, you haven’t – unless, that is, you’ve been in the thick of student government. Of the last ten regents, nine of them have spent time in student government prior to their appointment (the exception is the current non-voting regent from NAU, Jennifer Githner, who is a Ph.D student).

Perhaps this isn’t that surprising. After all, only the best and brightest are able to scale the lofty heights of student governance. And perhaps it takes a certain type of congress-critter to strive for such offices.

But perhaps it has something to do with the way student regents are selected. In spite of the fact that they represent the entire student body, the nominees for regents are ultimately chosen from a small cabal of high-ranking students. The members of the selection committee are listed here, but this is the breakdown:

Vice President Fritze – ASUA Executive Vice President

Nicole Pasteur – ASA Director

Tyler Quillin – ASUA Senator

Ryan Klenke – ASUA Diversity Director, ASUA Senate Candidate

David Lopez-Negrete – GPSC Vice President

Mary Venezia – Former ASA Director, Former Student Regent

Ruben Aguirre – Staffer for President Shelton

J.C. Mutchler – Token Prof

Frankly, it’s a bit offensive to have a professor sitting on the student regent selection committee. Otherwise, you have:

ASUA – 3

ASA – 2

GPSC – 1

Unaffiliated students – 0.5 (because, really, working for the President’s office hardly counts as any sort of “voice of the people.”)

But as my colleague asked two meetings ago, “Why is ASUA still a middleman when selecting student Regents? How about direct election?” It’s ironic that an institution so fervently holding onto non-representative, campus-wide elections for Senate (defying the standard set at virtually any other campus across the country) is so insistent that approving the student regent – the position that literally is supposed to represent the student body – should be such an oligarchic process, removed entirely from any sort of plebiscite.

Instead, after interviews and reviews of the applications, the regent selection process proceeds as follows:

Thursday, November 5

Selection Committee Meeting-Semi finalists selected

Week of Monday, November 9

UA Student Regent interviews and reception with ASA Board of Directors

Monday, November 16

Selection Committee Meeting-Three finalists selected

Wednesday, November 18

ASUA Senate confirms three finalists

Thursday, November 19

Three finalists sent to Governor’s office for nomination selection

This sort of process is absent of any outside student input. Take something like signature requirements. While this site has argued for reducing such standards for ASUA elections, there’s still a very strong case for their existence. Beyond pragmatic concerns about dealing with hundreds of candidates, making potential candidates collect signatures is a way of demonstrating that they really are serious about reaching out to the student body.

Unfortunately, no such provisions exist for regent applicants. Those student regents who rose to prominence through ASA have quite literally claimed to represent the “student voice” without ever having to reach out to students outside of the student government circle.

Instead of an admissions that resembles the election of a homecoming queen more than the student representative to the Board of Regents, the student government’s sole responsibility would be ensuring that candidates (a) had enough signatures, and (b) had all their paperwork in order. An election would be set (although ideally this would occur at the same time as the other elections), and would proceed as any other campus-wide election. In adherence with currently standing laws, the student government would submit the top three vote-getters to the governor as the three nominees, and the governor would “choose” from these – almost certainly, the one with the most votes.

From a statutory perspective, students can’t directly elect the regent – the Regent is ultimately appointed by the governor from a list of three names. Yet such statutory provisions also exist when it comes to fees, which can only be implemented or modified by the Board of Regents. Nevertheless, this campus has recently held plebiscites relating to KAMP and ASA fees (which passed), and a PIRG fee (which failed). There was nothing that prevented the Board from approving the PIRG fee, while nixing the KAMP and ASA fees – but regents respected the legitimacy and gravity of such a campus-wide election (with the glaring exception of the Student Services Fee).

Such a de facto approval would similarly exist in the governor’s office. The inevitable outcry that would emerge from a governor overriding a student vote would be far more trouble than its worth for such a middling position. For the governor, this is hardly worth more than ten minutes of his or her time.

Yet for students, it is immensely important. The student regent is quite literally the only representative they have in the tuition-setting process. Attention, ASA: here’s a reform you could push for that actually increases student power. Yet given their privileged role in the process, the odds of any push for this are effectively nil.


One Response

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  1. Renee Schafer Horton said, on 14 October 2009 at 1:05 pm

    outstanding post.

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