November 12, 2021 | LIFE | By Gaby Jadotte | Photo by Lonnie Timmons III
To most students, “the board” is an abstract concept. It’s a term that gets floated around every so often, usually when big decisions are announced or the endowment is mentioned, but not many people can readily describe who the Board of Trustees is, what it does, or why it should matter to students.
Before June of this year, I belonged to the majority. I had a vague understanding that the Board was involved in choosing a new president and setting tuition, but that was as much as I knew. Then, I was elected Student Trustee and began serving my one-year term on Colorado College’s Board.
In the span of a few months, I received a crash course in trusteeship, one that explains much more than just tuition-setting. Belonging to any Board of Trustees is a personal commitment to tactically guide an institution to its highest potential.
Within the CC Board, an engaged group of 30 alumni and community stakeholders manages the college’s endowment and investments and oversees the budget and campus master plan, among other tasks.
From attending the Board retreat in June and last week’s Board meeting, I found the Board’s most important role to be planning a strategic path for CC’s future several years, even decades, ahead and securing the funds to follow that path.
Some people may ask why these decisions aren’t made by upper-level employees, faculty, or even CC students, as they are directly involved with day-to-day operations, while trustees are far removed from this aspect. The point of a Board of Trustees is to remove the burden of thinking of the future and its uncertainties from those who have to deal with the everyday uncertainties of college life.
Imagine having to conduct a train while also laying the tracks. It would be difficult to move forward with both tasks simultaneously without sacrificing the integrity of one or the other. With the Board laying the tracks for the future and the administration conducting, CC has a better chance of getting to its future destination quickly and safely.
The trustees’ distance from the college also ensures they will provide more of an objective perspective when inevitably faced with difficult decisions. But what should the Board mean to students if the impact of its decisions will ultimately affect future students, not the current ones? How can current students impact the decisions made by the Board?
The Board goes into decision making with the intent of preserving and increasing the value of the CC experience and degree, something we benefit from once we receive our degrees. In the meantime, current students who want to bring about change should build their arguments around how their mission brings value to CC and its students one to five years down the line.
To do this, students must practice stepping outside their current perspective and apply an objective but passionate lens to their issues. Value-buiding is a key consideration in the Board’s decision-making and a component in student organizing that can be strengthened to increase student impact.