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What does the UNT student regent even do?

What does the UNT student regent even do?

What does the UNT student regent even do?
September 14
18:47 2016

As senior Christopher Lee enters his final year at UNT, he’s the student appointed to advise the UNT System Board of Regents on matters concerning the student body. As student regent, Lee is to help the nine-member board consider the students when making decisions that most certainly affect students throughout the UNT System.

Lee is also the most recent Student Government Association vice president. His leadership positions have granted him access to the presidential suite press box at football games and elevated him to be one of the faces of UNT leadership. Lee, along with other student leaders and university administrators, ate a private dinner with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott when he delivered the commencement address in spring 2015. The Texas governor has the final say in who gets to be each university’s student regent.

But many students who were interviewed for this article have not seen palpable efforts by Lee to reach them, to find their opinions of what the university should be doing for the student body. In fact, most of them did not know the student regent position existed.

The role places Lee on the UNT Board of Regents, the governing body of the UNT System. The board is composed of nine people, appointed by the Texas governor, for six-year terms. After the student applies for the position, Abbott chooses the applicant he believes is the best fit and appoints that student for a year-long term, beginning in June.

As the student regent, Lee speaks on behalf of student interests across all UNT campuses in regent meetings and activities. While the student regent is allowed to discuss issues in the regent meetings, the regent may not vote on any matter before the board. Lee is not compensated for his duties, but can serve on committees, special commissions and task forces while holding the position.

Since his appointment, Lee attended a student regent summit in Austin and met with the student governments on each campus in the UNT system, he said. In the regent meeting.

Although it is early in to his term, Lee has had some difficulties in regent meetings. Videos and conference calls show Lee has not yet been given the floor to advise the Board of Regents on student issues.

“With there only being one meeting, I haven’t had many opportunities to speak on student concerns,” Lee said.

Some students, like emergency administration junior Alexandra Mowry, feel Lee’s political beliefs could skew his decision making for a widely liberal student body. After all, some of the most prominent visitors and speakers to UNT have been well-known conservatives and Republicans. 

Greg Abbott, for example, visited campus two years ago, causing an uproar among graduates and liberal students. Wendy Davis, the former Texas Senator who ran against Abbott, came to campus, too, but was invited in part by student political groups, not administrators, which was the case for Abbott. Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, both personalities for the conservative Fox News, appeared at UNT for the Kuehne Speaker Series. Rudy Giuliani, the Republican and former mayor of New York City, is scheduled to attend the speaker series Thursday, Oct. 27.

Because the student regent is supposed to be the voice of students on campus, Mowry said, having a conservative-leaning student regent might continue to stack the ambitions of UNT System administrators against the wishes of the student body.

“I’m way liberal,” Mowry said. “I feel like a lot of students are liberal, so I don’t think [Lee’s conservative beliefs] are a totally accurate reflection of the students.”

Lee said he will work through SGA to communication with students.

The position of student regent was not mandatory until the Texas Legislature passed a law in 2005 that required every state university to appoint a student regent. On June 1, Lee was one of 10 other students statewide to be appointed to their university system boards.

According to the Texas Education Code regarding the position of student regent, before Nov. 1 of each year, the student government of each campus must gather applications for the student regent position. By Jan. 1, up to five applicants must send their applications to the student government, and the student government must then send the applications to the chancellor. The chancellor will then send at least two of the applicants to the governor no later than Feb. 1.

To apply for student regent, a student must be enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student in the UNT System, be in good academic standing as determined by the institution, remain enrolled throughout their term as student regent and maintain a GPA of at least 2.5. 

If a student meets all these requirements, they must complete two forms — one for the UNT System and the other for the governor.

Lee came to know of the position through the SGA and the people that he worked with.

“I personally knew former student regents and talked to them about what their experiences were like and thought I would enjoy that experience,” Lee said.

Lee was among five other applicants for the position, Director of Student Affairs Christa Coffey said.

SGA Senator Tiffany Miller, who worked with Lee during his time at the SGA, said she had first heard about the position when Lee told the staff that he was appointed. 

“I personally didn’t know it was something that you applied for,” Miller said.

Students were not the only ones who didn’t know about the open position. Political science professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha had a similar experience.

“I did not know that this particular position existed until the [May 2016] graduation commencement,” Eshbaugh-Soha said.

This is not the first time Lee has had light competition for an on-campus leadership position. In April 2015, Lee and running mate Adam Allatry were unopposed in their bid for SGA vice president and president, respectively.

“I feel like if we had more knowledge of the position then they would definitely get more students that would be interested in applying for it,” UNT student Jillian Palmer said. “The fact that I don’t know what it is is an issue.”

While few student know about the student regent, university officials did make an effort to inform students about the opening.

Coffey, who oversaw the student regent nomination process, said that the position was solicited through SGA and Graduate Student Council meetings and announcements, a press release, UNT faculty members, the SGA and GSC social media accounts, and Eagle Mail. Coffey said she emailed 12 student organizations on campus, not including SGA and GSC.

Sophomore William Simpson said he personally doesn’t care about student politics and on-campus issues, however, he believes students should be involved in some manner.

“I think students should be aware of and active in the policies that are made around them and affect them, especially in state schools,” Simpson said.

Eshbaugh-Soha is hopeful that Lee will properly represent students’ concerns and opinions.

“As long as [Lee] is representative and holds opportunities for student input and communicates that to the Board of Regents, his position can be very useful,” professor Eshbaugh-Soha said.

The next Board of Regents meetings will take place Thursday, Nov. 17, and end the next day. No details on an agenda for the meeting have been released at the time of this writing.

Lee said he understands the current state of student involvement in campus politics, but believes there is room for improvement.

“Aside from campus involvement I think there absolutely needs to be more political involvement from students in local, state and national levels,” Lee said. “I do, and will always, encourage students to get involved.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, student body Vice President Christopher Lee oversees the voting process while SGA decides whether or not to admit several new members as ambassadors, November 4, 2015. Matthew Brown

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Evan Groom

Evan Groom

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