Wednesday, October 26, 2011

U of I student trustees work together to be voice of student body

Being the student trustee with the binding vote is not something University of Illinois at Chicago junior Kenneth Thomas takes lightly.

The political science major from Midlothian, Ill. has made it his priority to communicate with his fellow trustees – Hannah Ehrenberg for Urbana-Champaign and John Tienken for Springfield – and the student body as much as possible.

“I am honored to be the student with the binding vote,” Thomas said. “It is a responsibility I take very seriously and I am going to need my counterparts very much. This is truly going to be a vote for the students of the University of Illinois.”

Thomas has started a Facebook page as an open forum for the UIC student body to share their concerns. He also uses twitter to obtain feedback on different initiatives and holds town hall-style meetings.

Ehrenberg, a senior human development and family studies major from Lincolnwood, Ill., and Tienken, a junior political science and English major from Clarendon Hills, Ill., also use social media, town hall meetings, student government and the student newspaper to gain a perspective on what is ailing students.

“Most importantly I ask classmates and friends on campus what matters to them,” Ehrenberg said. “I ask them what they are worried about and what they love about the University. Students need to know their opinions are important and my goal is to truly represent what the students want.”

The student trustees regularly talk though email and over the phone sharing the concerns of the students on their campus. Most of the time, Tienken said, the concerns are similar and the students are able to come to an agreement on the best course of action. Thomas then uses that information to determine his vote.

Being involved in the inner workings of the University is something that all three students deem as “crucial.”

“It is key,” Thomas said. “Student involvement in this University is very important. We are the ones in the classes, the ones getting our education. We need to be involved in the process in everything we do. It is important that students be at the table.”

Thomas, who plans on attending law school with a goal of going into politics, decided to run for student trustee after joining student government as a freshman.

“I saw being a student trustee as a way to fulfill my desire to help students,” he said.

The Board of Trustees, the governing body for the University of Illinois, consists of 13 members, three of which are the student trustees. The students are elected by the student body of their respective campus. One of the students is then selected by the governor to serve as the student with the official vote. Each student trustee serves a term of one year, beginning on July 1.

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