I have to say, I loved school more before I had to understand its inner workings. With a new school year comes fresh Board of Trustees meetings. They span Thursday and Friday at the end of every quarter, leaving us at The Lantern scrambling to find someone who can go to the meeting, as well as someone who is savvy enough to understand what the trustees are saying.
This year, I was one of the lucky people chosen to attend. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I was smart enough to comprehend the “Development and Investment Committee” meeting.
I am hopeless at trustees meetings. I never dress right (apparently only navy blue suits are acceptable?), I struggle to pay attention to their incomprehensible dialogue and I don’t know who anyone is and why they are important. All I know is that they run the university and make billions of dollars’ worth of decisions that affect everyone here.
That is why it’s interesting how secretive the trustees are. They have executive meetings that are closed to the public, so covering their open meetings is like walking into the middle of a conversation. It’s hard to follow, and everyone knows what’s going on except for you. All you can do is smile and nod and try to fill in the blanks while they run through the motions.
This year the meeting I attended had to do with endowment funds and university investments, pretty important stuff, especially in the current economic climate. To be honest, throwing around words like “liquidity” and “asset funds” make my eyes glaze over and I drool a little bit.
I figured out this much: People aren’t giving gifts and donations like they used to, and with the economic meltdown last fall, investment returns are low. The good news is, everyone else’s endowments and investment returns are bad too, so it’s kind of OK.
The rest of the meeting was a mystery. The reports had been passed out to everyone ahead of time, and it was obvious that it had been discussed before the open meeting. Because of this, the meeting was very short and sweet, and also short of explanation.
The second meeting I attended, on academic affairs, was even worse. I went to learn about semesters and really only learned that we were making more committees. They have a very elegant “commitee structure.” Oh, and they will soon start implementing the conversion plan people have been arguing about for ages.
To be honest, I’m not even sure committee members know what’s happening. At one point, a new member asked, “What’s the big deal about converting to semesters?” to be met with stares and confused looks.
The meeting only ended up being 30 minutes long. Then we were kicked out for an executive meeting, where I’m assuming all of the fun stuff was discussed and they popped the champaign.
As students, we deserve more access to the inner workings of our university. Minutes online and open meetings aren’t very exciting or detailed. It would be both interesting and enlightening to be able to see the entire thought process of our board, and it would show us where the issues truly lie.