Board of trustees must prioritize communication with students

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The Occidental board of trustees and the board of governors convened for a “mixer” with representatives of the student body on Jan. 29. Though the event was open to all members of the student body, only a select number of students were sent invitations. Representatives from each board spent the first 20 minutes of the mixer discussing the role, jurisdictions and responsibilities of each board of the college. And while many students are now aware of the board’s existence, the details of their roles and responsibilities remain mostly unclear.

The Occidental College website lists only the members’ names and a single board of trustees’ email address. So although students know the names and faces of each member (and can most likely Google who they are), they have no way of individually contacting them. Providing access to members’ information through the MyOxy portal, for instance, would make contacting board members much easier.

If the board wishes to truly keep in touch with student life at Occidental, then they should be more open to hearing student voices. The board meets four time per calendar year, but the meeting times are not well-publicized and Occidental students rarely get an opportunity to interact with them. The student mixer appeared like a sudden, fresh opportunity to meet the board, but only a few members were even there to engage in dialogue.

How can students get to know representatives at one of the highest tiers of the college if they are never able to meet them?

One simple solution is to have an open meeting following the official board of trustees meetings, where students and faculty are able to meet and greet members of the board. These meetings would allow students to learn more about what each board member does and how each member can truly represent the student body in its advisory to the president.

Greater transparency about upcoming board of trustees meetings is also crucial to establishing an enhanced connection between the board and its constituents. Allowing open suggestions for agenda topics – rather than the school reporting on what was discussed at the meeting itself – allows for student input and collaboration.

Though the board of trustees may be at the top of the Occidental food chain, it should not be difficult for students to reach out and learn about what the trustees do. By opening themselves to dialogue with students and community members, the board of trustees would better serve the school they represent.

This editorial represents the collective opinion of The Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.

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