Three times every year, the Hobart and William Smith Board of Trustees assembles to discuss issues on campus, meet with faculty, clubs, and sports teams, and make crucial decisions about the future of the Colleges. The Board includes alumnae and alumni from the class of 1961 to the class of 1996 and from a wide range of professions. It also includes two especially important members: the Student Trustees, one from Hobart and one from William Smith. Tyler Fuller ’18 and Brianna Moore ’18 serve as intermediaries between the Trustees and the student body, aiming to connect the administration with the opinions and interests of HWS students.
Though the Student Trustees speak on behalf of the student populous, many HWS students may not fully understand the role. Tyler Fuller, the Hobart senior Student Trustee, asserts that it is important to him that students know he represents them, and that the Trustees are eager to understand how HWS students feel.
Tyler, a Biochemistry and Spanish double major, is in a unique position to facilitate compromise. He recognizes that, as with the governance of any large institution, opinions and goals for the future of the colleges range widely. It’s important to Tyler to cultivate a collaborative attitude. “It isn’t always easy to bridge the gap, since the opinions of students often aren’t popular with Board members.” He emphasizes that despite these conflicts, the attitude is always respectful, and discussion is almost always constructive. “The Trustees are usually very receptive, because they care about the colleges very much,” Tyler says, adding, “They have all donated a lot of time, talent, and treasure to this school.”
Student Trustees are elected during their sophomore year. They serve as Junior Trustees during their junior year and become voting members as seniors. As they gain experience with the processes of the Board, they also gain more responsibility. As seniors, they run the elections of new Student Trustees and play a large role in the planning of graduation and commencement ceremonies.
One of their most notable responsibilities in planning commencement is the organization of a vote for the seating arrangement at graduation: the senior class votes to decide whether William Smith and Hobart students will sit separately or mixed together.
This may seem like a simple decision, but it is representative of a long-term debate about the coordinate system which exemplifies how challenging it can be to bridge the gap between students and the Board. The question as to whether the coordinate system should be perpetuated or the Colleges should be combined has been contested for decades. Tyler says that there are very few coordinate colleges in existence today, and the system forces some people to align with a gender dichotomy that doesn’t represent them.
Tyler emphasizes the importance of recognizing the rich history of the Colleges while making efforts to contemporize the coordinate system in order to make it inclusive of all students.
Trustee members make long-term intuitional decisions regarding issues which are often as complex as that of the coordinate system. Tyler notes that because the student body itself is often so divided on many issues, it can be difficult to speak on behalf of everyone. “We attend student government meetings, where many students go to express their frustrations. We also meet with various clubs throughout the semester to ask them for their feedback and opinions.” Then, Tyler and Brianna compile a report which they hope conveys an accurate picture of the biggest, most relevant issues students are talking about. According to Tyler, they try to focus on large-scale issues like protests or frustrations expressed by a majority of students, though he didn’t specify what kinds of frustrations they’ve chosen to report in the past. They present their reports at the triannual Board meetings.
In the recent past, the Student Trustees played a large role in advising the Board on President Vincent’s transition, particularly regarding “how students would respond to various events.” Tyler says this transition has gone very smoothly.
“The student body has been relatively quiet recently,” he later added.
At the Board meetings, Brianna and Tyler also sit on committees like the Student Affairs committee and the Buildings and Grounds committee. These committees then reconvene for discussions among the entire Board. The most recent Trustee Weekend took place Friday, February 9th through Sunday the 11th .
The current Junior Trustees are Caitlin Lasher ’19 and Gavin Gross ’19, and the next elections for sophomore Student Trustees will be held Friday, March 2nd. The candidates are: Gavin Flood ‘20, Joshua Andrews ‘20, Grant Emerson ‘20, Bartholomew Lahiff ‘20, Edens Fleurizard ‘20, Tanner Arnold ‘20, and Gabriel Pietrorazio ‘20 for Hobart; Gianna Gonzalez ‘20, Amelia McGowan ‘20, and Celidad Colon ‘20 for William Smith. Students from all classes can vote and are strongly encouraged to do so.