Students work to be heard in Board of Regents appointment process
UW System Student Representatives submitted the names of four applicants for the open Board of Regents traditional student seat to the governor’s office.Image By: Nina Bertelsen
This spring, a new student will be appointed to serve as part of the UW System’s main decision-making body, and some students are working to make sure their voices are heard in the appointment process.
The traditional student representative seat on the UW Board of Regents is open for re-appointment and will be filled in May. Historically, the representative is chosen by the governor from a pool of applications submitted directly to his office.
But this year, UW System Student Representatives, a body made up of two students from each UW institution, is working to insert student voices into the process.
“These [student representative] appointments have for years been made exclusively as political appointments, with no input from elected student governments,” Graham Pearce, chair of UW System Student Representatives, told The Daily Cardinal.
This fall, UW System Student Representatives asked the student governments of all 26 system schools to submit an eligible candidate. From the eight submitted, they chose four candidates to endorse to Gov. Scott Walker.
Mara Matovich, a UW-Madison student and Associated Students of Madison’s shared governance campaign director, is one of the four candidates.
“The candidates we've endorsed are all highly qualified and come from a wide range of backgrounds, so I'm confident that they can fit into whatever selection criteria the governor has established,” Pearce said.
In submitting candidates chosen by student governments, UW System Student Representatives leaders hope to maximize the student body’s voice on the Board of Regents.
However, James A. Langnes III, the outgoing traditional student appointee, believes the process should stay as is.
“This is the first time [UW System Student Representatives] has recommended somebody at all, but anybody has the ability to do so. A family friend, a faculty member, a business leader all has the right and opportunity to write a letter of rec to governor,” Langnes told The Daily Cardinal. “However, the appointment is statutorily up to the governor’s discretion.”
Langnes added that Walker was always open to listening to different opinions, and would take them into account when making appointments and decisions. Langnes also stressed the Board of Regents’ ultimate commitment to the taxpayers, regardless of party affiliation.
Langnes’ initial hearing was confirmed by a committee of both Republicans and Democrats, and he was confirmed by a Republican senate.
Edmund Manydeeds, a board member appointed in May 2010 under Gov. Jim Doyle, echoed Langnes’ sentiment.
“The hope is when we are appointed to the board that it’s not decided based upon what political party we are affiliated with,” Manydeeds said. “It’s a non-partisan group.”
James Vandenbergh, the vice president of the UW-River Falls Student Government Association, is an applicant for the position who was not endorsed by the UW System Student Representatives. Like Langnes and Manydeeds, he believes the current appointment process should stand, as it has historical precedent. However, he believes there is political sway involved.
“At the end of the day [the appointment] is political—Walker is a Republican and he’s not going to select someone for this position who votes against him or speaks out against him,” Vandenbergh said.
The Board of Regents is an 18-member body consisting of 16 appointed members—14 community members and two students, one traditional and one non-traditional. The student seats change every two years and the other positions change every seven. All members are appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate.
“Regents are very welcoming to these [student representatives]. They always listen to their position and their voices are given the same weight as other regents,” Manydeeds said.
The Board of Regents rules on a number of issues, from budget to property exchange to tenure stipulations. The student-members have the ability to influence these decisions through their vote, presence at the meetings and relationships with the board members.
With Walker’s 2017-’19 budget proposal released last week, UW-Madison students concerned about the opt-out segregated fees stipulation and changing degree plans could look to the student appointee as a direct link to the Regents, who will make decisions surrounding those issues.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter