Associated Student Body President Elam Miller wants to improve student relations with the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees by implementing a student agenda and gaining official student representation.
“Initially, I really wanted to see a student trustee on the board, and this is just really idealistic. In a perfect world, I would love to have a student representative on IHL,” Miller said. “Since becoming president, though, I have learned that there are some complexities to it.”
IHL is the constitutional governing body that oversees the policy and finances of Mississippi’s eight public institutions. The 12 board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Mississippi Senate to represent the state’s three Supreme Court Districts.
Because of this, Miller said that to add a student trustee to the board, there would have to be an amendment to the state constitution, which would have to be passed by the House and the Senate. The citizens of Mississippi would then make the final decision by voting on the amendment.
“I want to best position ourselves for that scenario where it would go to a vote,” Miller said. “What I’m trying to do this year is get a student agenda for the board, where once a semester the Presidents’ Council can come in after getting reports from all of the students of our individual universities.”
The Presidents’ Council is made up of the student body presidents of the eight public institutions governed by IHL. They meet once or twice a month to discuss various issues and topics relevant to their schools.
“The Presidents’ Council recently had a meeting with Commissioner Rankins, who is the new Commissioner of IHL, and we shared with him our idea of wanting to have a student agenda once a semester,” Miller said. “We want this to be something that’s sort of a recurring event, if the Presidents’ Council in any year wishes to have that.”
Current Commissioner of Higher Learning Alfred Rankins, with whom the council met, is currently serving in his first year as commissioner and said that he plans to utilize the Presidents’ Council to get input about student issues.
“The Board of Trustees welcomes input from students at the universities and provides a variety of avenues to receive information and ideas from students, including inviting the Student Body Presidents’ Council members to the board’s monthly meetings,” Rankins said. “The board also relies on the chancellor and presidents of the universities to keep the board apprised of items that are of concern to their students.”
Miller and Rankins both said that Presidents’ Council members have always been welcome to present specific issues with proposed solutions to the board.
“In the past, the student government presidents have also presented items for the Board of Trustees’ consideration and approval, including a student activities fee approved a few years ago,” Rankins said.
The student activities fee was presented by former ASB President Davis Rogers to the board in 2014, and this fee has now been implemented at all eight public universities in Mississippi.
“There (have) been times where students have come and presented to the board on a specific issue,” Miller said. “But there hasn’t been a formal ‘We want to have student representation!’ push. That was a push for the student activities fee. This is a push for the representation.”