COLUMBUS – Student trustees at Ohio’s fourteen public four-year colleges and universities would gain equal voting rights on their respective boards of trustees through House Bill 111, sponsored by State Representatives Michael Stinziano (D- Columbus) and Mike Duffey (R-Worthington).
“Across our great state, student trustees are already making valuable contributions to the work of university boards,” said Stinziano. “If passed, this improvement would give student trustees an opportunity to participate equally in the decisions that affect Ohio students.”
This bill is a reintroduction of the as introduced version of HB 377 from last session, which passed the Ohio House 79-19 and passed out of the Ohio Senate education committee but did not reach a floor vote before the end of the two-year session. The proposal is supported by several Ohio public universities, including The Ohio State University, and enjoys strong support from student groups.
According to the Legislative Service Commission, 39 states have student trustees. Of those, 32 (82%) allow at least one student trustee to vote, with just 7 states having non-voting student trustees. Ohio is currently one of those 7, but if passed, HB 111 would make it one of 33 – joining the majority of states who recognize student trustees voting rights.
Each of Ohio’s fourteen public universities has two student trustees and between nine and fifteen non-student trustees. Student trustees, even with voting rights, will constitute a small minority of the board membership. Under current law, student trustees have no voting power and are not counted toward quorum. They also do not currently have a legal right to attend executive sessions.
In selecting student trustees under Ohio law, five names are nominated pursuant to a procedure adopted by each university’s student government and approved by the board of trustees. The governor selects one of those nominees with the advice and consent of the Ohio Senate.
HB 111 would equalize voting power for student trustees, empowering them to participate in all levels of decision-making that directly affects their academic success and university experience.
“Now more than ever, it is important that Ohio’s public universities put students first when it comes to important decisions regarding curriculum, tuition pricing, facilities and all aspects of student life,” said Duffey. “If passed, Ohio will join the majority of states who already recognize that student trustees ought to have an equal vote on their respective boards.”
HB 111 should be referred to a committee in the near future. Supporters of the legislation are encouraged to contact their area legislators and student government organizations.