Trustees and Transparency

We want more from our representatives

by Grace Montesano


I didn’t know we even had a governing body besides President Tiefenthaler for over a year. As it turns out, there is a Board of Trustees, and they make most of the important decisions about the direction of the school. After learning that the Board existed, I wanted to learn more about it. However, after digging around on the Colorado College website and speaking with Student Trustee and senior Elliot Mamet, I realized that the information I was looking for wasn’t available. However, I gained a lot from just our conversation. 

The Board of Trustees is the highest level of governance at Colorado College. There are 33 members consisting of 28 Charter Trustees, three Alumni Trustees, one Young Alumni Trustee, one Student Trustee and the College President. The Board is in charge of decisions such as selecting the President, managing the endowment, promotion and tenure of faculty, strategic and long-term planning, setting the price of tuition and determining the overall budget for the school. Up to this point, the board has been somewhat shrouded in mystery. Whether or not that is intentional, the students have a right to know what is going on with the Board of Trustees.  

Students are large financial contributors to the College. Tuition accounts for roughly three-fourths of the college’s yearly operating budget. As investors in both our education and the future of the College as a whole, students should be afforded some information pertaining to the decisions the Board makes on our behalf. We’ve done some work in this area. Thanks to the Student Divestment Committee, the endowment portfolio is available to view at the circulation desk of Tutt Library. 

Students also deserve to know how the school is governed, what decisions are being made and what the decision-making process is. CC is, most importantly, an institution of learning. The students who make the existence of the school possible should at least get to observe the meetings that decide in what direction the school will go. Students at CC enjoy being engaged in understanding policy decisions. The request from students for student participation in decisions concerning the soup kitchen is a perfect example of how students are more than willing to engage the school in issues that matter to them. Students cannot create the best community possible if they cannot take part in the decision making process. 

Beyond the importance of engagement on a college level, as CC students trickle into the so-called “real world” after college, it is valuable that they understand the importance of political efficacy. Understanding the bodies of governance that control them is a value that can be cultivated now to enhance students lives immediately as well as in the future. Civic responsibility is one of the most important lessons that people learn from higher education. A key part of the college experience is learning how to become an engaged citizen and allowing students to view the governing body as it makes decisions. 

Ultimately, the Board of Trustees is a group of people who seek to do what’s best for the college. The Progressive Student Alliance feels that this means the Board must help students in as many ways as possible. We created a proposal to send to the Board that will wholly improve the college. Because we believe that the Board genuinely cares about the college and the students who attend school here, we are hopeful that they will thoroughly consider and agree with our proposal. 

According to Mamet, up to this point, the main pushback against the Board from students has been about the investment choices of the Board and the lack of student voice in important decisions. However, students from the Progressive Student Alliance are now calling for a more transparent Board of Trustees, and hope students will join their side. A proposal sent to the Board includes the following provisions: 

First, we have requested a more detailed explanation of how the Board operates, including governance procedures.  While the bylaws for the College are available on the CC website, the information provided does not include the regulations that the Board has created to appropriately deal with certain issues (for example, there is no information available to students regarding how the Board appoints new members). Not only is it important for students to understand the decisions that are being made by the Board, it’s also important to understand the processes that bring about those decisions.

 In addition, we have requested detailed and accessible minutes within a month from the meeting dates from all Board meetings, including standing committees. We think it’s important to have detailed minutes from meetings posted promptly so that all students can stay up to date on decisions and always be informed about what is happening with the Board. 

Our final request is open access to board meetings for students, faculty and staff. We think this is one of the most important requests because students deserve to observe first hand the meetings that decide a great deal about our lives. Viewing the process of deliberation can provide insight that mere minutes cannot. This would give students a window into the decision-making process. Of course, we understand the Board would have to be closed to the public for certain discussions, but those discussions don’t necessitate an entirely closed body.

The Board of Trustees should be more than a collection of rich alumni. It should reflect and respond to Colorado College’s greatest asset: the student body. Not only do students have a right to this transparency, it makes the college better as a whole. Transparency in governance is absolutely integral to the long-term success of the institution, and if the Board is really in the business of our best interests, they will accept our terms and make Colorado College as good as it can possibly be.