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Board of Trustees researches student representation

Hatchet File Photo by Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Hatchet File Photo by Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The chair of the Board of Trustees has created a task force to consider adding a student member to the board.

The committee will examine how other colleges include student representation on their boards before deciding if and how GW will add a student. Forming the task force marks a major step for Student Association President Erika Feinman, whose campaign platform included adding one undergraduate and one graduate student to the board.

“Through this task force we will definitely explore ways to enhance and facilitate better connections,” Feinman said.

Feinman will serve on the task force with SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno. Feinman said they are considering adding other students to the task force, but they have not reached a decision or determined how they would choose other students.

Former trustee Titilola Harley is chairing the task force. Harley served as alumna trustee for four years and is a two-time alumna of the business school. Gabbi Baker, an alumna trustee, and Grace Speights, the board’s chair of nominations and governance, will also serve on the team, which Feinman said plans to meet in September.

The group will present their initial findings at October’s Board of Trustees meeting, board chair Nelson Carbonell said.

Conversations about adding student members to the board have been a longstanding element of University-student politics, with movements at GW dating back to 2004. The proposals have historically been shut down by University officials, who have said the board’s bylaws do not allow for a student representative.

The full board wants to hear the task force’s findings before considering altering the bylaws, Carbonell said in an email.

He decided to create the task force because he meets with student leaders on a regular basis, and adding a student representative was a major part of Feinman’s agenda.

“The Board of Trustees does what it can to address student issues and concerns,” Carbonell said. “In general, we are taking a broad look at how university boards engage their students and all the possibilities in which students could participate.”

The two recent alumnae, Baker, who was elected to the board in May, and Sally Nuamah, who joined in 2014, “provide perspective” from recent students’ points of view, Carbonell added.

Falcigno said that he and Feinman are “excited” to make progress on adding student representation with Carbonell’s help.

“It is a big deal for us because it is the first time the board is really looking into this issue,” Falcigno said. “We are really grateful to chairman Carbonell to allow us to express our views and really allow GW to bring the board closer to students and what the students go through on a daily basis.”

Jacqueline Thomsen and Elise Zaidi contributed reporting.

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