As a senior who used to serve on student government, I have attended many Board of Trustees Student Development meetings. For those not familiar, this is a specific committee that is tasked with meeting with students twice a year to listen and respond to our concerns. Despite no longer being required to attend this meeting as part of Scot Council, I still decided to go on Friday, Oct. 29.
Interestingly, it was open to all students. While in the past, these meetings have only been open to students who were speaking to the Trustees or those on student government. This open admittance is integral because all students deserve access to the ultimate power on campus. I was thrilled to see students pack Lean Lecture Hall. I was impressed by my peers who asked questions and helped student speakers expand on their points when the Trustees fell silent. It would be a shame for the Student Development meeting to ever be closed again.
Shockingly, there were actually trustees there. In the past, these meetings have been held in the Alley (RIP) around a couple of tables pushed together. As a rough estimate, I would say there were only ever 5-10 Trustees there. Not even all the Trustees on the Student Development Committee would bother to show up, which I think says a lot. However, on Friday, there were 20-30 Trustees in the room. While most did not ask questions after student speeches, they were there. It may not have been the engagement students wanted, but at least Trustees were there to listen.
Also, the student speakers were phenomenal. It was no surprise that my peers spoke eloquently and passionately about student concerns, wellbeing and livelihood on campus. They left no room for the Trustees to undercut their statements and demands. The message was clear: students, especially Black students, deserve better. The student speakers challenged the Trustees and called them out, which has been sorely needed at past Student Development meetings. In one instance, a speaker demanded to know an outcome from a past meeting. After a bit of scrambling, the trustees were able to provide several examples. While they were few and far between and did not appear to particularly sway student opinions of the Board of Trustees, I appreciated that there were any. As I move towards graduation, I know that there are younger student leaders on this campus that will continue to challenge the Trustees and fight for student rights. The student speakers on Friday proved that and, for me, outshone past speeches.
There will be another Student Development meeting in the spring and then many more after that. I encourage every student to go. Not to antagonize the Trustees, who we often blame for everything that we dislike on campus, but to advocate for yourself and your peers. And if not to speak, to listen to and support other students. Continue to demand that the Trustees come to the Student Development meeting, listen, respond and then act.