Editor’s note: Per the TSM election code Section 7.45B, Daily Texan editor-in-chief candidates have the opportunity to publish two columns during their campaigns. The candidates were asked to write one column on the topic specified below and another on a topic of their choice. The columns had to be between 580-620 words. The candidates were responsible for writing their own headlines. For their second column below, the candidates wrote on a topic of their choice.
With growing political power, college students are gaining a greater influence on the community they live in. But it is time for the student regent on the UT System’s Board of Regents to have a vote.
Currently there is a student on the Board of Regents, but he or she cannot vote on issues and can only offer input and advice. While current student regent Ashley Purgason has told The Daily Texan that the Board of Regents appreciates her voice, they would probably actually consider her voice a bit more if a vote was attached to it.
It makes sense to give the student regent a vote. This is not high school anymore — students in the UT System colleges are adults. And although they are in the middle of their education, students know what other students want and need better than the millionaires who sit on the Board of Regents.
Furthermore, the student population of the UT System is huge, and it deserves representation with actual power. The student body of UT-Austin is bigger than Georgetown by itself. Together, the UT System student body should be regarded as a force to be reckoned with.
And the UT System would not be the first to make this move. There are other higher education systems with voting student regents, and these systems do not seem to be burning down in flames. This includes the University of California System, Washington State University and a few others.
Giving the student regent a vote would take intervention by the state Legislature — something that has not happened yet this session. Yet the possibility is there. Just last week the Board of Regents seemed to be the Capitol’s favorite topic of the week, and lawmakers seemed ready to reexamine the purpose of the UT System Board of Regents.
On Monday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made allegations that the Board of Regents was trying to micromanage UT-Austin and undermine UT President William Powers Jr. On Wednesday, Dewhurst announced he was launching a joint committee to examine the governing role of the Board of Regents. And then later in the day on Wednesday, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed a bill that would limit the power of the regents by mandating all responsibilities not specified as belonging to the regents belong to the heads of individual institutions. Seliger, who is the Senate Higher Education Committee chairman, got nine co-sponsors.
Basically: Last week was a bad week for the Board of Regents.
If Dewhurst, Seliger and other critics are serious about reexamining the role of the regents, then they need to at the least consider giving the student regent a vote. But right now, this does not even seem to be part of the conversation.
The topic has not made headlines since last fall when the question of a student regent with a vote was posed to senators at September’s Texas Tribune Festival, an annual series of speakers and panels on political issues in Texas. At one of the panels at the festival, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said there was support for a voting student regent, but not enough traction to pass it.
Well, if there were ever a time to build traction for such an idea, that time is now. Invest in Texas, a UT student lobbying campaign, included a student regent with a vote on their platform. With lawmakers giving the Board of Regents a critical eye, perhaps now is the time for students to push for this issue more than ever.
Blanchard is a journalism sophomore from Pearland.