UISG wants student regents to be undergrads

BY SAM LANE | DECEMBER 02, 2010 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa Student Government representatives say having an undergraduate student on the state Board of Regents is vital in an era of decreasing education funding and increasing tuition.

UISG senators and executives unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday encouraging Gov.-elect Terry Branstad to appoint an undergraduate student representative to the Board of Regents in the future.

Iowa Code requires that one of the nine regents be a full-time student, though it doesn't specify whether that student should be a graduate or undergraduate. The current student regent, Greta Johnson, graduated from Iowa State University and is now a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa — she is still eligible for a spot on the board.

She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

While the resolution expressed gratitude for Johnson's service, it specified "she is no longer an undergraduate student."

"Therefore be it resolved, appointing an undergraduate to the Iowa Board of Regents will ensure the necessary student perspective on tuition, budgetary, procedural, and other matters," the resolution states.

UISG President John Rigby said the resolution is, in no way, a "repudiation" of Johnson, who was appointed in 2008, reappointed in 2009, and whose term lasts until 2015.

"We're kind of at a crossroads," Rigby said. "We've seen a trend with [decreasing] higher education funding. It's important to have a student to represent undergraduates."

The resolution, which was proposed by UISG Sen. Nicholas Pottebaum, will likely result in a letter sent to Branstad sometime this spring after he is sworn in and before he appoints individuals to the three spots that will open on the board in April.

But Pottebaum said the intention of the resolution was not to have an undergrad appointed in the spring, nor does the resolution wish to change anything about current processes. He also said they're not looking for the appointment of an undergraduate in addition to Johnson, but rather he or she would take Johnson's spot when she completes her master's program.

"We wouldn't be opposed to [an additional student representative], but that's not realistic," Pottebaum said. "That wasn't our intention."

On what should happen if the next undergraduate student board member becomes a graduate student, Pottebaum said the only goal they specified in the resolution was to encourage appointment of an undergrad.

Regent Robert Downer said he's observed problems with rapid turnover when dealing with student regents. He said he's served with three different student regents, one of whom served less than a year.

"It takes a period of time for people to grasp what's going on," he said. "They need a firm idea of the issues before the board. It takes time to be assimilated to a governance with a budget exceeding $4 billion."

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