Since 1998, four-year colleges have allowed their students to serve on their board of trustees. Since 2008, Bellevue College’s Office of Legislative Affairs (OSLA) and students have been advocating for a bill that will allow “equal and deserving” community college students to serve on the board of trustees. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee on Feb. 9 but this bill has had a rocky history.
According to an OSLA representative, “In the 2009-2010 legislative session, the bill passed the State House of Representatives for the first time, with overwhelming support on a vote of 97-12. However, the bill stalled in the Senate Higher Education Committee one vote short of approval.” In this session, after OSLA reintroduced the bill, it has gained support from American Federation of Teachers, the Washington Education Association, the League of Educated Voters, the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Student Association, the current student-members serving as trustees at four-year colleges, and WASHPIRG.
At Bellevue College, President Jean Floten and the Board of Trustees have been supporting this effort since 2008.Rep. Mike Sells, the Prime Sponsor of the legislation, has been the greatest advocate for the bill.
“The bill has been opposed by a select group of College Presidents and Trustees who fear that the result of a student on the board would create too much transparency, subjecting them to potential public scrutiny.”
The bill will be soon up for vote on the House Floor and, if passed, will move on to the Senate Higher Education Committee for review, where it was stopped during the 2009-2010 session, “Historically, the Senate Higher Education Committee is where student supported bills have been killed.”
If passed, the bill will move onto the governor’s desk for approval.
“It would be the first time in State History that community college student-legislation is passed into law. It would be a symbolic and significant victory for community college students, giving them a voice in their own education, upholding that they are just as equal, capable, and deserving as their peers at four-year institutions, and proving that students DO have an important role to play in our democratic society,” said the OSLA representative.
“Historically, students have been the catalysts for change in Washington State, and we must re-invigorate those passions to take an active role in OUR future.”
The bill, House Bill 1568,can be tracked at www.leg.wa.gov under “Bill Search.” For more information, contact OSLA. Their office can be found in Student Programs.