With the two month mark of President Donald Trump’s controversial tenure approaching, policy has been a highly debated issue among college campuses. On our own campus, policy remains the same in order to run opposed to Trump’s cutbacks. However, many are unaware of the process and individuals behind our politically-charged backbone, this being the board of trustees.
The board of trustees, comprised of 39 individuals ranging from Jesuits to alumni, holds a support role to Interim President Lynn Babington, acting as a cabinet of sorts when it comes to upholding policy on campus.
According to the Fairfield University website, “The Board, of which the president is a member, makes policy decisions and establishes institutional objectives and priorities. The Board of Trustees approves University policies and monitors their implementation.”
The process for choosing, however, is rather demanding in order to seek the best alternatives for settling the campus climate to be a healthy one.
According to Jenn Anderson, vice president of marketing and communications, “Our board of trustees has a sub-committee specifically designed to identify and recruit trustees. This committee is called the ‘Committee on Trusteeship.’”
“The time commitment to be a trustee is significant and includes both presence at the four board meetings annually and attendance at a wide range of other Fairfield events both on and off campus,” added Anderson.
This process has been pertinent, especially regarding the recent national policy changes enacted by President Trump in terms of LGBTQ rights and citizenship. In order to protect the student population as a whole, Babington believes that educating one’s whole person with the core Jesuit values is a necessary measure.
“For as we know, embracing diversity is a distinguishing hallmark of Jesuit education and we will continue … our commitment to build a community of learners from diverse social, economic, racial, cultural, national and religious backgrounds,” said Babington.
Though numerous Office of the President letters have been issued through email, including statements on Title IX and travel bans, many students are still uneasy over the political climate on campus, with seemingly little being done as current events transpire.
“Though we haven’t communicated directly with the board of trustees, it is obvious from school policy and practices that queer students are not their priority,” said Meaghan Hamilton ‘17. “We can only hope that recent administrative changes may lead to a more LGBTQ+ friendly campus, especially considering the current state of LGBTQ+ rights in the country as a whole.”
In regards to constructing a suitable dialogue on campus, Frank Carroll ‘89, chair on the board of trustees, stressed that listening to one another is a huge factor that can improve the overall morale of campus, especially in these trying times for numerous students.
“The biggest challenge we all face is to leave our personal views aside long enough to hear the opposing view. Everyone has the right to be heard, even if we don’t agree with their views,” said Carroll.
“The real world is often not simply black and white — the grey is where we can make great strides forward,” added Carroll.
As the current school year continues, all eyes move to the presidential search process, with Babington transferring the role of power to a new individual at the commencement of summer 2017.
Babington added, “listening sessions were held on campus to solicit input from the entire University community regarding the qualities required for selecting a qualified president to serve Fairfield University.”
These events, marketed by the Office of the President as open sessions, are designated to establish a dialogue that “will help us to ensure that the next University president will possess the key competencies, leadership qualities and experiences central to leading us in fulfilling our collective vision for Fairfield,” according to an email sent to the student body on Nov. 4.
However, some students feel as though the board of trustees is operating above the student threshold and have not made themselves dutifully represented for the student body.
Some students report that they do not exactly know what powers are entrusted to the board of trustees and what their role is on campus. Junior Christina Ficaro reflected this sentiment, stating that “I’m not really sure who they are or what they do since they don’t seem to operate much at the student level.”
While the presidential search process is slowly coming to a close, students such as Ficaro hope to become more aware and involved in the matters of the board of trustees when the new president steps in.