Student voices omitted: BORSC not invited to present before all Regents at final meeting

The Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC) is not invited to present to the full Board at the third and final Board of Regents meeting of the academic year. This will be the only meeting of the year where BORSC won’t have an audience with all Regents.

BORSC Coordinator Fricka Lindemann ’22 was informed of BORSC’s omission from the agenda just nine days before the May meeting.

In an email to the Messenger, Anderson said regarding BORSC’s lack of place on the May agenda that, “It has never been the expectation that either [BORSC or the faculty representative to the Board] will present to the full Board at every meeting.”

In this vein no member of BORSC is guaranteed an audience with any Regents through official policy — moreover, BORSC is not mentioned in the Board bylaws at all. However, recent years have set a precedent that BORSC more often than not gets the chance to address the entirety of the Board.

In the past five years there have been three instances of BORSC not having time to present to all Regents: May 2016, January 2020 and May 2020.

The Board of Regents meeting agenda is set by Chair of the Board Jay Lund ’81 and President David Anderson ’74. A lack of time is one reason Anderson relayed to Lindemann for why BORSC will not address all Regents at the meeting. On the agenda 45 minutes are set aside for the Board to watch the Honors Day livestream.

Student representatives are on the agenda to present to an audience of five out of the 38 total Regents during the Community Life Committee meeting — a delayed addition to the agenda. Anderson informed Lindemann that the late addition to the agenda was because the Chair of the committee is “a very busy person, like all of our Regents, and the question slipped off his agenda.”

This BORSC presentation will focus on student perspectives on the past school year, with an emphasis on the first-year experience. Lindemann says the Board cares a lot about retention of students, so the first-year experience (as well as all student experiences) would serve to inform much of what the Board discusses.

Lindemann said that the group had been working toward their May 2021 presentation for months prior to being told of their lack of space in the agenda. She sent out a survey to all St. Olaf students on March 28 to solicit student perspectives to convey to the Board at the May meeting.

“Our whole founding purpose was to have students communicate with the board members at board meetings,” Lindemann said. “To represent students, and also be there for the Regents to ask questions of students. Kind of a reciprocal relationship.”

Traditionally, BORSC has been given roughly an hour to present to and take questions from the Board. During the October 2020 and February 2021 meetings, this was shortened to 20 and 15 minutes, respectively. According to Anderson, in the past BORSC most often presented to the Regents during breakfast or lunch — these meals are not group activities during virtual meetings.

Lindemann sees the role of BORSC as important as ever this year, saying that the student experience has never been as unique and has never been less accessible to those outside of the residential community.

“Student perspectives this year are different than ever before, and probably less tangible for Regents because they’re not here ever,” Lindemann said. “Talking to the student representatives of [BORSC] is the only chance they really get to interact with students ever.”

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