Student leaders from the University of the District of Columbia urged the D.C. Council yesterday to curb the authority of UDC's board of trustees and make it easier to remove trustees.
The students, who had led a protest at the university in late September, testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Education and Libraries, which is considering a bill that would increase the number of trustees from 15 to 21, including two new student members. The bill also would reduce the terms of trustees from five years to three years. The two-term limit would not change.
The bill, resulting from negotiations among student protesters, trustees and some council members, would be the first major statutory change to result from the demonstrations, which focused on student concerns about the way trustees manage UDC.
But the students said at the council hearing that the bill does not go far enough.
"There is really no point in increasing the number of appointees if we don't address the issue of the selection process," student leader Mark Thompson told the committee.
"How board members are chosen is more important. And we are concerned about how much power the board has in running the university."
Students had complained during their protest that the board is too political.
Eleven of its 15 members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council.
Some of the council members hinted that they would oppose increasing the board to 21 members, saying such an increase would create more problems than it would solve.
"It would not depoliticize the board of trustees," said council member Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3).
Trustees acknowledged yesterday that the board needs to refine its operations, which have been criticized by an academic accrediting agency.
The Rev. A. Knighton Stanley, vice chairman of the board, said trustees have begun discussions with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to improve their procedures.
Stanley said the trustees oppose a reduction in the length of appointments for board members, noting that it takes new appointees time to understand how the university runs.
Trustees and students suggested that the composition of the board become more diverse, with some seats filled by people with backgrounds in such areas as administrative law, community development, fund-raising, higher education, finance and business management.
E. Dave Chatman, president of the UDC Faculty Senate, testified that the Board of Trustees should have faculty representation at least equal to other constituencies at the university.
The Faculty Senate also said that people who are on the faculties at other universities should be prohibited from serving on UDC's board.
Both the trustees and students said they were opposed to having UDC faculty members on the Board of Trustees, citing the possibility of conflicts of interest.