On March 1, at the town hall featuring NYU President Andrew Hamilton, NYU Student Labor Action Movement hijacked the discussion on affordability to raise its concerns regarding NYU’s board of trustees. For months, SLAM has been arguing in favor of student representation on the 69 person board. Currently, there is little transparency regarding the board’s decision-making process. Although Hamilton continues to push back on the idea, student representation is vital to ensure the board’s decisions reflect the interests of students and not those of large corporations and wealthy donors.
Because the board of trustees is responsible for “creating policy, setting mission and purpose, strategic planning, reviewing programs and relating campus to community and community to campus,” it is necessary that these policies, missions and programs take into account the voices of the students they will directly impact. For example, trustee John Paulson has recently become the object of student protest because of his position as an economic adviser to President Donald Trump. These protests highlight the dissonance between students’ ideal vision of the board and its reality. Student involvement in the decision-making process would help repair this schism.
Student representation on the board would offer much needed transparency between the decision-makers and those affected by their outcomes. Unlike the trustees, students are not beholden to outside financial interests. For example, many students are frustrated that the board of trustees has not listened to NYU Divest’s request to stop investing in fossil fuels. Of course, students are not qualified to make any of the major financial decisions that the board makes. However, having a student on the board would give the trustees an idea of how average students would react to their decisions. Should the board listen to the representative, it would lead to more decisions that take into consideration not only the interests of the board, but also the interests of the rest of the NYU community.
Considering the significant rift between students’ ideas and interests and those of the board of trustees, adding student representation would help highlight day-to-day issues of university life and help seal this rift. For the continuing improvement of NYU, it is time to include a student voice on the Board of Trustees.
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