As a student who has advocated for the student curator to have a vote for three years now, I took offense when I read Professor Kennedy’s editorial on July 12th.
Professor Kennedy said that advocates for this legislation have “agitated and eventually succeeded” in persuading a comfortable majority in the legislature to vote for this legislation.
ASUM, the student lobbying organization of the UM System, has worked on this issue for many years. Over time, ASUM has built a trust with the legislators, and I’m confident in saying that I don’t think we “agitated” any representative or senator into voting for this legislation. To me, results of 31-2 and 100-47 prove “agitation” had nothing to do with its passage. Agitation would have prevented this bill from gaining traction many years ago.
Professor Kennedy has some legitimate concerns that ASUM has and will continue to address. The possibility of adding seats for faculty, staff and alumni has never been part of legitimate discussions. The statistics show that for every 25 institutions that allow students to vote, only 1 of those universities have a faculty or staff voting member. This concern hasn’t and is not likely to become a true problem in the future if this bill becomes law.
The curators are supposed to represent the “citizenry,” and they will under this legislation. If we have eight congressional districts, we will have eight regional members and one student voting member. Over history, the average age of the student curator has been 23 years old, and they’ve nearly all been enrolled in graduate or professional school while serving on the board. I would argue that with the UM System moving toward a business-approach of managing the campuses, the student curator’s vote is not only more important but could yield surprising, positive results.