72°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Alexis Marvel and State Representative Martin Walsh Introduce a Bill to Expand Student Trustee Voting Rights

Marvel+and+Student+Body+President+Jesse+Wright+have+been+working+to+draft+the+bill+and+get+the+support+of+other+UMass+campuses+since+she+was+elected+last+June.+Right+now%2C+the+trustees+from+every+campus+but+UMass+Dartmouth+back+the+push+for+full+board+membership.%0A

Marvel and Student Body President Jesse Wright have been working to draft the bill and get the support of other UMass campuses since she was elected last June. Right now, the trustees from every campus but UMass Dartmouth back the push for full board membership.

 

 

UMass Boston student trustee Alexis Marvel and state representative Martin J. Walsh have written a bill to expand the voting rights of student trustees in the UMass system. Walsh submitted the bill, titled “An Act Providing Full Student Representation on the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees,” to the Massachusetts State House on January 18, 2013.

According to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 75, Section 1A, “Two members [of the board of trustees] shall be full-time students.” However, there are five campuses (Boston, Worcester, Amherst, Dartmouth and Lowell) that elect student trustees, meaning that each year, three elected student trustees do not have full membership rights. This year, Worcester and Amherst trustees are official board members, but Marvel, along with the trustees from Dartmouth and Lowell, is not. According to Section 1A, Marvel, although elected by UMass Boston to represent the campus on the board, is never able to cast a vote on UMass Boston’s behalf.

Because she couldn’t vote at previous meetings, she thought her position was “less of a trustee position and more of an advisor position.” More than that, she felt like “an advisor whose opinions sometimes fall on deaf ears.” She added, “If this bill passes, it will ensure that every student at UMass has a representative that can vote in their best interests.”

Marvel, a friend of former trustees Stasha Lampert and Alex Kulenovic, has known about the conflict surrounding voting rights since before she was elected. “I’ve spoken to Alex and Stasha about it,” she said. “They said it’s been brought up informally every year.” But before this year, Marvel doesn’t believe students and other board members had a clear idea of how to change the situation. “I think for a long time people didn’t realize that you needed to go through the state legislature, that it’s a state law that needs to be changed rather than a board bylaw,” she said.

Marvel and Student Body President Jesse Wright have been working to draft the bill and get the support of other UMass campuses since she was elected last June. Right now, the trustees from every campus but UMass Dartmouth back the push for full board membership.

Full student representation has also garnered some support among Massachusetts politicans. By the time she got in touch with Representative Walsh, Marvel said, “Jesse had also reached out to state senator Jack Hart about the bill, and he was on board with it.”

The actual wording and submission of the bill, however, is largely the responsibility of Walsh, who Marvel got in touch with last fall. “Pamela [Walsh’s chief legislative aid] was at an event at UMass Boston,” Marvel said, “and I spoke to her about an internship in the future.” While discussing the internship, Marvel mentioned that she, Wright, and the other student trustees were interested in gaining full voting rights for student board members.

“I set up a meeting with Marty Walsh in December about an internship and about the bill.” said Marvel. “He was just great about it, was completely on board, and actually suggested that my internship be focused on pushing this bill through.”

Walsh himself told the Mass Media, “It’s a great bill…student trustees should vote because students are the focal point of the university.” He had “no idea” why full student representation hadn’t already been passed.

Marvel believed she would manage to get the bill passed in the state legislature, but probably not right away. “I think there are quite a few board members who are opposed to it,” she said. “I think they believe that student trustees will vote in a bloc…[but] historically I don’t think we’ve ever had five student trustees who are all on board with each other on every single issue.”

Whether or not anyone in the Massachusetts State Legislature opposes full membership for all student trustees, Walsh knows that the process of making new laws is a slow one. “It just got filed,” he said. “There’s still a very very long process… it could be a while.”

“We may not even get it through this session,” Marvel admitted. “But I, as well as a few other key people, are really committed to pushing this through no matter how long it takes.”

She’s also looking for volunteers for what she calls “a cool opportunity for students who want to get involved in public policy.” Students who want to help pass the bill should email [email protected].