Student Trustees are an important part of our school’s system, and a role not enough people vote for. With the upcoming election for the new junior Student Trustees (see the timetable above), the Herald met with Gavin Gross ’19 and Caitlin Lasher ’19, our senior Student Trustees to learn more about their role at HWS and on the Board of Trustees. Their role is an important one for our school, yet one few people know enough about them.
Student Trustees are an important part of our school’s system, yet not enough people vote for them. I think that is a culture issue. We don’t believe in systems and their ability to actually succeed in helping people, especially when it comes to things that we don’t fully understand and may see as trivial. Simply look at our midterm elections. But these opportunities we don’t take are self-fulfilling, and getting involved even at the smallest level is something we need to learn to do and appreciate if we want to value our systems we live in and use to run our lives. This is an out-of-the-classroom learning experience when it comes to living lives of consequence and a way we are taught to live in and care about our world.
Student Trustees are students elected by the Hobart and William Smith student body as representatives who act as members of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees. As a group, members of the Board of Trustees make decisions affecting the everyday life of the students. That means they work within the coordinate system. The Board decides the policies of the campus that students must follow, and it also chose our new president. That means that the Student Trustees play an important role in allowing students to have a voice.
Gavin Gross, one of our senior Student Trustees, describes the job as acting as a “liaison between the students and the Board. You’re really a representative for Hobart and William Smith.”
Student Trustees have a number of responsibilities that are very important to their job. These include attending Board meetings that take place three times a year, in the fall, winter and spring, and writing Board reports. This is done by attending all of the student government meetings and “really knowing what’s going on campus,” as Gross put it. This means doing things like tabling and going to clubs. Not only do they interact with the students, but Student Trustees get to be on committees, such as the Presidential Search Committee that chose Joyce Jacobsen as president of the Colleges.
Student Trustee Caitlin Lasher served on the Presidential Search Committee. She described it as “a lot of fun work.” She said she really got to “know the insides and out of what we [Hobart and William Smith] are looking for in a president,” reading the applications and sitting in on interviews, acting as a student representative of our school. Other committees exist for the Trustees to work on, and they change from year to year. Both Trustees mentioned the individuality of the Trustee role from year to year. These are some of the responsibilities that the Student Trustees have, as well as running student elections. This may sound like a lot, but as Lasher put it, “It’s a lot of good hard work, but good and important work.”
The student elected as Student Trustee should be someone who is ready to put in his or her time and effort, but a Student Trustee also needs to have other characteristics, too. It is important to have someone who “can and will speak,” Gross said. As a representative of the student body, the person who has this role needs to be one who will do just that, and represent by acting and engaging, not just observing. Being approachable as someone students can talk to is a crucial part of this, both representatives commented. Lasher said it was important to be a “representative first,” as the role exists for students to represent the majority of the student body, not just their personal views. As Gross said: “you want someone who represents your school in the right way.”
The Trustees are voted in in March, but first they must campaign and attend a candidate Q&A session. The dates of the process are listed at the top of this page and are taken from the Student Trustee Petition Packet.
Anyone interested in running should get a packet from Student Activities. The Student Trustees elected this year will be two sophomores who will get to learn how to be a Trustee next year as juniors. If you’re not running, it’s still important to look into the candidates who are to find a person who represents you in the “right way.” When elections occur in March, take an active role in your representation, since this is how you can be part of making our school’s systems work.