14 December, 2011
MSU Board Members,
I am disturbed by the vagueness of your agenda. How can I properly write letters that comment on your meetings if I have no understanding of what will be discussed? For example--"proposed new doctoral tuition structure"--raises the questions, what is this structure, are the doctoral students aware of the change, why is the change necessary? Will the proposed structure be discussed at this meeting? Or will it be briefly mentioned and approved without the public knowing what it is?
Even more vague are the "matters presented by the chair" and "matters presented by the president." What exactly are these matters? I don't know if I should be concerned about them because I do not know what they are.
I demand a more thorough agenda with bullet points and specific descriptions about what will be discussed and decided. In addition, I demand open public sessions where the board members hold question and answer sessions with the public about the decisions being made. This will ensure that the public understands what is going on at MSU and will be able to present their concerns properly. If the decisions being made at this institution are truly representative of the publics' interests, I don't see why this would be a problem. If the decisions being made aren't representative of the publics' interests, then we have a problem, and there is no way you can pretend MSU is operated democratically.
----- Original Message -----
From: Lisa Grab <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, December 15, 2011 11:55 am
Subject: BOT meeting today
To: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
Cc: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>, "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>, Suzie Cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Student trustees,
> I wrote to the board members, like you suggested at the last
> Board of Trustees meeting. You told me that by writing to them,
> they will allow me to speak about the topics mentioned in my
> letter. I have not heard anything from them about whether or not
> I will be able to speak. Can you mention this to them or try to
> see if they are planning on letting me speak? If not, is there
> any way I can speak during the student trustee report?
> (Remember, the SGA president failed to show up to represent the
> student voice at the last meeting; so I reasonably assume I am
> just as qualified as a person who doesn't fulfill his roles
> within the SGA and perhaps does not see his role as important
> enough to appoint someone else to speak on his behalf).
> Please let me know, as I have been looking forward to working
> within the boards system to have a voice. If this doesn't work,
> I will have no choice but to move to other methods in the
> Lisa Grab
> SDS Organizer
Re: BOT meeting today
Aleksey Bychkov <email@example.com>
Lisa Grab <firstname.lastname@example.org>
December 15, 2011 12:59:06 PM
Jon and I made a mistake in relaying the wrong information to you, unfortunately. And for that, on behalf of Jon and myself - I apologize. Students are not allowed to speak during the BoT public session, unless it is a special session - i.e. the tuition hearing this past April. What you can do is send your letter to Jon and I, and we will be sure to bring up those topics in the Student Report to the Board. Your voice can and will be heard.
I was also under the impression that the right information was relayed to you by the people you say you have reached out to. If you had contacted Jon and myself earlier, prior to the day of the actual meeting, we could have added your concerns and ideas to the Student Report that will be given at today's meeting. Be sure to forward your letter to us before the next meeting, which will take place on February 5th, 2011. You can count on your ideas and concerns to be addressed in the next Student Report to the Board of Trustees.
Board of Trustees
Montclair State University
Student Center Annex Rm. 101
Jonathan Aronoff <email@example.com>
Lisa Grab <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Suzie Cole <email@example.com>, Dr. Karen L. Pennington <firstname.lastname@example.org>
December 15, 2011 1:04:13 PM
I will be speaking today on behalf of the students. If you would like to meet before hand, let me know.
Montclair State University
Board of Trustees
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Cole's response to Lisa Grab’s email to the student trustees and her letter to the BOT members:
"President Susan A. Cole" <Susan.Cole@montclair.edu>
Lisa Grab <email@example.com>
firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>, Karen L. Pennington <firstname.lastname@example.org>
December 15, 2011 1:33:09 PM
Dear Ms. Grab:
I think you have a misunderstanding about what the Board of Trustees is and how it functions as part of the governance of the University. I think you also have a misunderstanding about your standing as an individual student who represents only your own views and opinions. I would be happen to discuss all this with you should you wish. Meanwhile, what follows is a brief summary explanation.
The matters on which the Board will act today have been developed, reviewed and vetted through an extensive consultative process within the University. By way of example, the action they will take on the digital language laboratory software was considered by faculty in the language departments and by associated IT professionals, and it received further review by relevant academic administrators and procurement professionals. As another example, the actions the Board will take on faculty reappointment and tenure decisions were all reviewed by the relevant department committees, department chairpersons, deans, provost, and part of the consideration in those reviews were formal student evaluations. When a matter is recommended by me to the Board for action, it has already had thorough review by the appropriate bodies within the University's structure and governance system. Then the Board committees review these matters fully, and it is important to note that two students, one voting and one non-voting, sit on committees. When the Board acts on a matter in public session, they do so because the deliberations are complete and they are ready to act. They act in public, not because that is the place where debate should occur as to whether or not a particular software choice should be made for foreign languages or whether or not a particular faculty member should receive tenure, but because acting in public assures that any interested person can know immediately what decisions the Board has made. There are no secret actions.
The students of Montclair State elect two representatives to the Board of Trustees, and, whether you personally like them or not or think they are doing a good job or not, they are the duly elected representatives of the student population. If there is something you believe they should be addressing, then you are completely free to discuss any issues you wish with them, and they are, of course, free to exercise their own judgment about what they wish to say or do about your views or ideas. For what it may be worth to you, in my judgment, I have found both of your representatives to be earnest, interested, and hardworking in their roles. Their attendance has been excellent, and they both meet with University officials regularly and ask excellent questions and share their ideas freely. Finally, as a student, you have considerable opportunities to share your ideas and concerns with members of the University community well before the Board takes action on any issue. In addition to your opportunities to participate in student governance activities, the Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life (Dr. Pennington) and the Dean of Students, Rosemary Howell, and many other members of the student affairs division are easy to see if you have concerns you would like to address.
As to your letter to the Board, which was received just yesterday, it has been shared with the members of the Board, as is the case for all correspondence addressed to them. From the tone of your letter to the Board, which is rather imperious and hostile, I get the impression that you seem more interested in creating a confrontation than in actually addressing a concrete issue. Perhaps I am wrong about that. In any event, in my judgment, the University is very fortunate in having the Board of Trustees that it does. These individuals, who serve only because of their commitment to public higher education, have been generous supporters and advocates for the University and its students. If you are looking for enemies, you are looking in the wrong place.
Again, if you would like to talk to me about any of these matters, please feel free to call my office in January and make an appointment. I would be glad to chat.
1. Montclarion article about SDS's attempt to protest the BOT meeting:
“We spoke with them and had a great conversation with them,” said Jon Aronoff, student representative for the Board of Trustees. “We let them know that if they had any other questions they can contact us. Anyone can talk at a board meeting; they are just asked to e-mail or write a letter ahead of time.”
2. Montclarion opinion article bashing SDS for their unpreparedness (should have been SGA's unpreparedness):
"If the group is protesting the loss of democratic process at Montclair, then it seems appropriate that they first understand the facilities that are provided to them, such as the University’s Student Government Association and the Board of Trustees to prevent unsupported and ineffective attacks.
This display seems to imply that instead of investigating the rules and regulations regarding general assembly or becoming involved in the already existing democratic government to change it from within, the organizers were simply protesting rights that they only assumed were being violated."
1. At the last BOT meeting, SDS showed up to protest how the public is not allowed to speak at the meetings. The student trustees immediately came up to us and told us that we could speak if we wrote a letter to the trustees 24 hours before their meeting. This proved to be false, as you can see in the above information.
2. Jonathan Aronoff was not to be seen before the BOT meeting, and when the meeting began, he went straight to his seat; when the meeting ended, he left without acknowledging SDS.