Graphic by Serena Zuniga - Digital & Multimedia Editor
The California Lutheran University Board of Regents will vote in early May to decide the future of the Student and Faculty Regent Positions on the Board.
President Lori Varlotta said in an email interview that the university contracted Trower & Trower to evaluate the current governing structure. She said their lead consultant “is viewed by many in higher education as being the most experienced consultant in this type of work.”
Varlotta said during their first month, the consultants reminded university administrators that the Board of Regents is a non-profit governing board, not a representative board. To keep this function of the Board stable, the consultants were brought in to look at multiple governing documents of the university.
In a phone interview, Faculty Regent and Associate Religion Professor Colleen Windham-Hughes said the consultants made 16 recommendations for the bylaws of the university and 13 recommendations for faculty handbooks. As ex officio members of the Board of Regents, faculty and student regents received the consultants’ 16 recommendations for the bylaws, one of which relates to voting rights for ex officio members.
Varlotta said that during their first month on contract, the consultants suggested that Cal Lutheran remove the student and faculty seats from the Board to reduce the chance of it being seen as a representative board rather than a governing board.
“Neither I, as president, nor most of the regents thought that the removal of seats made sense for Cal Lutheran. All of us—cabinet and regents—wanted to be sure we preserved faculty and student presence, voice, and advocacy,” Varlotta said.
This push to keep student voices on the Board was tackled by the student and faculty regents, among other non-ex officio members.
In an email interview, Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government (ASCLUG) President Josh Gattison said, “As ASCLU-G President I’ve been working and strongly advocating to keep the student regent position as part of the board of regents, and will continue to work to make sure students have a voice in decision making.”
Varlotta said the consultants devised a new plan to preserve faculty and student participation on the Board.
“The third path option changes the role of the faculty and student regent, but it does not remove their participation from the Board. As it is being envisioned right now, the third path would allow Faculty and Students to maintain participation via a non-voting advisor, ambassador, or liaison position. The incumbents would attend, by invitation, portions of every Board meeting,” Varlotta said.
She said faculty and students would be invited to portions of every Board meeting, which would grant them a voice and a formal opportunity to share specific recommendations with the Regents.
Faculty Senate Chair and Professor of religion Julia Fogg said in an email interview that many faculty are concerned, but that the Board is invested in faculty and student perspectives.
“They don’t have to listen to us, but they do hear directly from faculty and students and it is the culture of the CLU Board to have sought and to continue seeking student and faculty input. Could this change, yes, of course. But the fact that this Board is taking the time to weigh options in conversation with the student and faculty regents is very encouraging,” Fogg said.