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Student regent would give true representation to board about issues

Nov. 3, 2006

By TRAVIS PLUMMER

The other student body officers and I met Oct. 19 with the academic affairs and student life committee of the Baylor Board of Regents.

It was the first time for this hybrid committee to meet, and it was certainly a new process to all. To be frank, we were less than thrilled with the 10-minute time frame we were given to address issues on campus and some of the projects we're working on. We know this allotment of time wasn't a true representation of how much the regents care about students.

At this meeting we only had time to address the issues of religious diversity in campus organizations, the community summit and the proposal of a student regent.

The irony (and the necessity) of the latter initiative became clearer as we were ushered out the door.

The presence of student regents on American college campuses came around in the post-World War II era. Universities went through a pivotal point of self-evaluation that resulted in many changes in the way universities were run and spawned contemporary ideas. The idea of having a student regent an idea that would provide for the invaluable input of the general student body.

The initial idea of establishing a student regent on Baylor's board came to me when I attended the Big XII Conference of Student Governments. At that time, the University of Texas had just won a 30-year battle to attain a student's voice in a seat on its trustee board.

Instituting this process at the University of Texas meant changing the regent structure of all Texas public universities. It actually took legislation from the Texas Legislature. If a university with 50,000 students can have so such concern for its student body, certainly Baylor would, and should, follow suit. The great news for our university is that this change wouldn't require a statewide initiative. It would only take action from the Baylor Board of Regents.

I can only pray that our fight for the position won't take nearly as long as it did for other Texas universities. Yet given Baylor's well-known climate for change, we better not hold our collective breathes.

My main focus this year is to spark dialogue about a Baylor Student Regent among students and administrators; a starting step. I personally desire to see a student regent put on the board as an ex-officio member. The benefit of this would come from the student regent being able to sit in the official board meetings and even present students concerns and opinions right before the board itself votes.

Currently the student body officers are not permitted in the official meeting and may only present to the student life committee, which consists of about a quarter of the board members.

Ideally, students would have this position representing as an ex-officio member on the board for about five or six years. Hopefully students who had been selected would represent the student body in an effective way while building strong relations with all the board members. This would, in turn, set up future student body officers for success so that in the near future they might pursue a voting member.

The selection process is going to be crucial for picking not only intelligent and active students, but students who are going to fit well into the board's group dynamic.

I know this student body is one of the most mature collegiate campuses in the nation, and I hope that the regents can see that.

I hope all parties can capitalize on the amazing potential this position holds in communication benefits and the overall betterment of our university.

Internal Vice President Travis Plummer is an junior biology major from San Antonio.