An absence of student voices on the Board of Trustees

By Daniel Brogan and

Shane Coughlin

Contributing Writers

The vision of St Michael’s College affirms a commitment to, “encourage the development of an empathetic understanding and respect for the differing views of others derived from their history, status or unique philosophical or religious belief.”

The College has been limited in its approach to both engage and respect the views of student body, considering the fact that the Board of Trustees does not currently permit student liaisons to be present during board meetings.

The Student Association Ad Hoc Committee for Representation on the Board of Trustees has worked for the last two years toward an understanding with administration of how students can best pursue involvement on the institution’s highest governing body, and has been recently met with silence.

Looking at old constitutions and minutes of past board meetings, it has been proven that there was consistent student representation up until 2007. Starting in 1983, student leaders in the Student Association served as official representatives on the Board of Trustees as described in at least 10 former Student Association constitutions. In fact, the former Student Association President and current Vice President of Community Engagement and Government Affairs, Patrick Gallivan, served as the official student representative to the Board of Trustees. We have been disappointed in the lack of support from Patrick Gallivan, as he had the opportunity and voice to empower students at St. Michael’s.

Additionally, there have been several recorded instances of not just one, but upwards of four students participating on the Learning Commit-

tee from 1983 to 2001. Unfortunately, student leaders have been increasingly shut out of more recent meetings with trustees and administrators, and the presence of the Executive Board of the Student Association has been severely limited on committees.

The Ad-Hoc Committee has actively listened to comments and criticisms from the Board of Trustees, faculty members, staff, and administrators and revised the proposal multiple times based on the valuable input a non voting, ex-officio member of the Learning Committee on the Board could have. The Ad-Hoc Committee has created constitutional revisions within the Student Association Constitution to structurally ensure that the ex-officio member will be truly representative of the student population at the college, as well as be a valuable voice

that is necessary to the Board. The Committee has provided a solution in which the Board of Trustees does not have to amend its current bylaws; a simple majority vote in favor of an ex-officio member is all that is required of the Board of Trustees.

Multiple colleges within Vermont, including: Middlebury, UVM, and the Vermont State College Board of Trustees all have student representatives. Competing colleges like Husson University and Rivier University have full voting students that serve on their respective boards of trustees. By formally incorporating student representation, colleges demonstrate that they value perspectives from the largest stakeholder in education: The students.

Students at St. Michael’s want their voice to matter, as we choose to be a part of a community that emphasizes empathy, respect, diversity, and community. Without incorporating the voice of the largest stakeholder in education on the Board of Trustees, the college is presenting a sense of ambivalence with respect to the level of input students can provide. St. Michael’s trusts students to design their own majors and volunteer globally, yet the college currently doesn’t agree that students are capable of providing their perspective to the Board of Trustees.

The proposal of having a student ex-officio member on the Learning Committee is not a lofty request, and

in fact, has been a part of the governance of the college in the past. The Ad Hoc Committee is asking for a student to offer insight and provide feedback on how the college can govern best. We are not asking for your power, we are seeking empowerment. We are not looking to criticize, we are hoping to collaborate. We are not against you, because we are you. Together, we are a community that strives to be better and pursue the betterment of our college. We can achieve that goal if we closely align the students’ voices with the Board of Trustees.

Looking to support this initiative as a faculty member, staff member, or student? Write an email of support to Patrick Gallivan ( and ask for the email to be forwarded to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mary-Kate McKenna.