BC OSLA: State passed the bill SB 5217

Illustration by Brandy Pickering

On March 26, a bill entitled SB 5217 was passed, allowing the appointment of student members on the board of trustees in community and technical colleges in the state of Washington. This means that at each community and technical college, the board of trustees can add a sixth member to their board. The appointment must be preceded by a majority vote of three-fifths of the trustees. If the board chooses to exercise this option, they will go through with the application of this process.

The application  is still in the process of being written out and verified as a legitimate document, however, this is good news for all who have advocated for the passing of this bill. According to BC’s OSLA Legislative Director Jake Atwell-Scrivner, what spurred his activity in the movement towards definitive student voices on community college campuses was the lack of student representation in decisions by college officials, and the reality that for ten years now, four-year universities have found it mandatory that a student trustee serve on the board of regents. Such is the case at the University of Washington, who proudly employs a trustee whom Atwell-Scrivner has been speaking with about the complexities of these issues. “We figured, if it’s good enough for the four-years, it should be good enough for the two-year schools.”

“Community colleges sometimes serve a more diverse community than four-years do.” Having student voice[s] is an invaluable tool that the community colleges can use,” said Atwell-Scrivner. According to his speculations, student voices could significantly impact the decisions on various crucial budget plans. These decisions drastically alter the reality of student life, such as how much funding is given towards certain programs and anything which irrigates the money flow on a college campus.

This movement towards legislative student voices has been underway for five years, long before Atwell-Scrivner or many other current activists had even heard about the bill. Although Atwell-Scrivner and his comrades are ecstatic about this bill, there are still slight alterations which they would like to see implemented as far as technicalities go.

At first, the Senate version was amended in the House to make it optional to add a tenth member to the larger jury of representatives known as the State Board, which directly influences the 34 collective community and technical colleges in the state of Washington. What the SB 5217 is currently providing is a student voice within the representatives serving each individual school. Apparently, the advocates find this wonderful, but Atwell-Scrivner and his colleagues hope to pass an amendment which requires a student benefactor in this much more powerful “umbrella” board of trustees. This current bill gives the option for the board to call upon a student at the school level. An amendment which was recently shot down by the State on Feb. 27, 2012, would make it mandatory to have a student serve on the board.

For now, Atwell-Scrivner says that all who have worked on the passing of this bill is pleased with the recent improvement towards student representation. He says “we would just like to show other community and technical colleges that it does work.”