Editorial: The untrustable Trustees
They wield more power than any administrative position at this university. They exert control and influence, both formally and informally, over the university’s every affair. They’re the apparitions, nameless to most and faceless to nearly all, that dictate your college experience, per the university’s state charter.
They’re those trusty Trustees.
There are 28 of them. Some of them are appointed by the governor, several are state and university officials, and the rest are elected by the Board itself. Many, if not all, of them are extremely wealthy, either currently or formerly holding top positions at corporations with a large stake at the university (think DuPont and JP Morgan). According to the university’s charter, they are responsible for “the entire control and management of the affairs of the University.”
Those powers encompass a thick chunk of impenetrable text, but the Board essentially controls everything. Whether it’s the president’s job or your tuition, the Trustees have the ultimate say in all matters relating to personnel and finance.
So who are they? It would appear that they don’t want you to know.
Last week, the Board held its annual fall “retreat” to discuss the fate of the university. But, like most retreats for the wealthy, it was, for all intents and purposes, an exclusive event, tucked away in the Marriott’s conference rooms. Only an intentional squint would spot the retreat’s advertisement, made several days beforehand at the bottom of UDaily.
But, had the event been better advertised, and had students actually attended, they wouldn’t have been able to contribute much. The meeting agenda, distributed to attendees, was very clear about the public’s role in university affairs, stating explicitly that “there is not a public comment component of this meeting.”
Traditionally, the highest-ranking members of the Student Government Association (SGA) have been the only students with any access to the Board, and SGA’s input, of course, is only a formality. While the Board might listen, it certainly doesn’t have to. And, over the years, SGA has hardly proved itself an accurate representation of the student body. That leaves us, the students, those who shovel thousands per year into the university and give this corporation a reason for its existence, completely alienated from the decision-making process.
When Board members can be appointed without any clear connection to the university, and when the nomination and appointment process is left to Delaware politics, there is no reason to believe that the Board is qualified to make decisions for the university. The Board, it seems, has no interest in hearing your voice, and, it would follow, no vested interest in learning anything real about the university it controls. So long as it continues to operate discreetly, holding events that are only nominally public and closed to comment, that won’t change.
So tell them how you feel. You’ll find their names and biographies here. They all have university email addresses (although each address appears to go to one central account). The Review encourages students, faculty and staff to be vigilant and to make sure that these elite few hear your voices.
But this burden should not fall entirely on the university community. If the Board is going to determine the fate of educations and faculty and staff careers, it has an obligation to hold more public meetings, to allow for public comment, to adequately advertise these events and to make an effort to get in touch with this campus. The Board must come out of the Marriott conference rooms and step onto The Green.
Editorials are developed weekly by The Review’s editorial board and reflect the views of the Editor in Chief, the Executive Editor and the editorial staff. The development of this week’s editorial was led by Editor in Chief Caleb Owens. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.