By Niusha Nawab
The AU Board of Trustees is an enigma. An enigma that is full of risks.
It is comprised of 30 members, 26 of whom have voting power. Included among these voting members are corporate executives, bankers and real-estate developers. On the Board there are only two faculty representatives, one who represents the Washington College of Law and one who represents the entire undergraduate and graduate faculty. They do not have voting power. Alone on the Board is a single student selected by the Board itself and Student Government. They also have no voting power.
The Board is clearly paramount in the University decision-making process. The severe lack of student control over this body is thus of great importance. Because the Board has no voting members that are an active part of this campus, they may often be less than fully aware of issues that impact our community and unable to adequately address the needs and desires of students, faculty and staff. With this in mind, the Coalition of American University Students (CAUS) reached out to the Board of Trustees to explain to them the necessity of student power and the terrible impact that this tuition hike will have on student lives.
First, we tried to attend a Board meeting. We had hoped that, with an earnest and “professional” approach, we would be allowed some presence in the meeting. We were met by Public Safety officers and a Board assistant who denied us entrance. But they promised to provide the Board with our letter to President Neil Kerwin and our petition, containing over 1,700 student signatures and demanding a transparent and itemized budget, greater student power over university decisions and a two-year freeze on tuition.
We know these materials were delivered, but we received no response. Knowing that this might happen, we flyered the cars of Board members with our contact information in the hopes of working with any who might be quietly sympathetic. Again, no response.
We chose to contact Board members directly. Though our calls and emails were largely ignored, we did receive a letter from Board Chairman Jeffrey Sine. He told us to “work with your student representatives and to participate in the process that has already been established.” To this form-letter style response, we again voiced our concerns about the established process. We received no response.
It is clear to us that any attempt to work with AU’s governing forces will meet a dead-end. If the AU student body wishes to avoid the dreary fate of impotently paying more and more money and falling deeper and deeper into debt, the only way forward is direct action.
The CAUS will continue to agitate and organize until AU truly belongs to students, faculty and staff. We invite you to join us.
As SIS professor Stephen Cohen said of former AU President Benjamin Ladner, a shameless embezzler of university funds whose departure was due partly to student efforts, “If we do not do something about the way the Board is structured, this will happen again.”
Niusha Nawab is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.