Regents look to add position

In what Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire, called a demonstration of student clout, the state Assembly voted unanimously Thursday in favor of creating a non-traditional student seat on the Board of Regents.

The bill already passed in the Senate, and Gov. Doyle is in favor of the bill, according to the governor’s office.

“This proves that students can make a difference in the legislative process,” Kreibich said. “I’ve never seen (student lobbying) as intense as it has been.”

If signed, the bill would create a second student seat and expand the board, which serves as the liaison between the state Legislature and the UW System, to 18 members.

Kreibich said some regents were hesitant to support the initiative, but that expanding student voice is imperative with tuition rising and the UW System facing “troubling times.”

“Students have really earned another seat,” he said. “Hopefully, this will translate into more modest tuition hikes and larger increase in financial aid.”

Regents said they welcome an increase in student input, though some raised concerns with the specifics of the legislation.

“I think it’s a great idea. The only problem is the amount of time required,” Regent Greg Gracz said. “If it is a non-traditional student . it’s probably someone who’s working a full-time job, going to school part-time, maybe has a family.”

Regent Roger Axtell echoed Gracz and also raised logistical concerns, saying 18 members is a “cumbersome” number for voting.

“There are ways around that,” he said. “I have no personal objection.”

Sophomore and Student Senator Erika Dinkel-Smith, who was involved with the student lobby, said establishing another student seat is a definite victory, though she would prefer the creation of a seat open to any type of student.

“I think having it that the representative has to be non-traditional is a little misleading,” she said. “It’s suggesting that only a non-traditional student understands non-traditional needs.”

Dinkel-Smith, who was one of three finalists for the student regent spot last summer, said the student regent should act in the interest of all students.

“The idea of a student on the Board of Regents is that they’ll represent the whole student body,” she said.

But the extensive interview process, Dinkel-Smith said, should produce a responsible student regent, regardless of background guidelines.

Kreibich said roughly 30 percent of UW students are working adults and having the new student regent be non-traditional introduces a unique perspective to the board.

But securing another student seat on the Board of Regents, he said, is only the beginning of what can be accomplished through student activism.

“I’m hoping we can build on this,” he said. “It was really campus-based, grass-roots based. If you can do that, there’s a recipe for success.”