Editorials

Editorial: Young trustee elections

By
Monday, April 20, 2009

At an upcoming meeting this May, the Brown Corporation will likely approve a proposal to reserve a few spaces in its membership for young alumni trustees, according to recent Herald coverage. Under the proposal, young alums, defined as students who left Brown less than seven years ago, would be appointed by the Corporation Committee on Trustee Vacancies and would serve for three-year terms, as opposed to the usual six-year tenure for trustees.

The purpose of the proposal is to make sure that student perspectives are given more weight in Corporation decisions. This is a worthwhile aim for a body that has drawn criticism for its isolation from student concerns. But if the Corporation is truly committed to obtaining input about the undergraduate experience, it should use a more representative selection process. To that end, we recommend making young alumni trustee an elected position.

All and only recent alums — again, those who left Brown under seven years ago — should have a vote. Elections might entail narrowing down the pool of candidates to a reasonable number. We suggest letting anyone run in the first election, and, if too many people enter the race, requiring a minimum number of signatures for eligibility in future elections.

Elections for the young alumni position would best advance the Corporation’s goals. The Corporation cannot adequately take account of student opinion — that’s the basis for designating spaces for young alums in the first place — and it will run into the same problem in trying to pick alums that understand student priorities. No individual can represent the student body, but elections would increase the likelihood that the young alumni chosen are those most in touch with campus affairs.

Some might argue that Corporation members are in a better position than recent alums to choose a young alumni trustee with the right qualities. We’re inclined to disagree, but we would encourage the Corporation to provide voters with a description of the trustee’s duties so that they can make a more informed decision.

Elections offer another advantage over appointments. By giving recent alums a bigger stake in University decisions, the Corporation would foster young alumni participation in the Brown community. Increased alumni engagement, and the ensuing dialogue about what makes for a good trustee, will ensure that the Corporation gets the full benefit from its newest position.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.