MILLER: Students have a friend on the Board of Visitors

Accessibility is my number one priority as the Student Member of the Board of Visitors

On June 1, 2017, I will begin my term as the Student Member of the Board of Visitors. Before my term begins, I want to take the time to introduce myself to the University community, and to share with you all my vision for the upcoming year. For some of you, this may be a reintroduction, for others, it may be the first time we’ve interacted. Regardless, I am happy to greet all of the Hoos who have taken the time to read this article. I will do my best to make it worthwhile.

First, I want to explain what the Board does, and where the student member fits in. The Board of Visitors is the highest governing body at the University. Even before there was a University president, there was a Board, and Thomas Jefferson was its first rector. Composed of 17 voting members, one nonvoting student member, and one nonvoting faculty representative, the BOV is tasked with carrying out the strategic mission of the University. For example the board votes on tuition increases, approves the construction of new buildings, signs off on the creation of new degree programs and even has a role in selecting our new president. Since 1983, the University has appointed a student representative to serve on the board, and each student member has made the position their own. The student member has a very particular functions. On the one hand, the student member serves as a kind of “sounding board” for the Board and providing insight into the student experience which can help to inform the debate around particular issues.

As we all know, there are very few, if any, issues all students agree on. Therefore, the student member is tasked with giving voice to the broad spectrum of student opinion, rather than advocating for a specific position. On the other hand, the student member is also responsible for communicating the board’s decisions to the student body, keeping constituent groups abreast of the Board’s activities and educating students about the Board’s mission. Both of these functions are equally important, and neither can be done well without the support of the student body at large.

This position, with its unrivaled access to key decisionmakers and its highly-visible nature, was not something that I walked into blindly. Not at all. I applied to serve as the Student Member because I am a woman on a mission. My singular goal is to make sure that students feel heard by the Board, and that students know that I am here to listen. In pursuit of this goal, I have initiated several projects that are designed to increase transparency, promote constructive conversations, and ultimately, to make sure that students know that the Board and I exist.

Just last semester, in a survey conducted by The Cavalier Daily, almost 60 percent of students said they didn’t know enough about the Board. To close the information gap, I will be working closely with The Cavalier Daily over the next year to make sure that students are made aware of the issues that matter most. As a guest columnist I will write monthly about topics that the Board is considering, decisions that have been made, and projects that are in the works. I will also go live with The Cavalier Daily on Facebook after each of the Board Meetings to share my perspective and to give everyone a quick rundown of what went on. Each of these forums represent opportunity for me to engage directly with students, and answer any questions that you may have.

In addition, I have reconfigured the Student Member Advisory Committee, affectionately known as the SMAC, which was founded by my predecessor Phoebe Willis. The SMAC exists to plan and host events where students can meet first-hand with members of the Board, and also to conduct research related to student concerns. The application for the SMAC can be found on the University’s Student Member Facebook page. Speaking of Facebook, you can expect regular posts, polls and videos from me this year which tackle important questions like: “Why is the Student Member a non-voting member?” “Is it true that UVa has its own plane?” and “Why has tuition increased every year since I started?” Answers to all of these questions and more can be found there moving forward.

More than anything else, I want to meet as many students as possible. Whether it’s undergrads, grads, or even students at the U.Va. College at Wise, my priority is to be able to speak authoritatively on the issues that affect students. But, the only way that I can do that is to connect with as many students as possible. So, this is an open invitation. Email me, Facebook message me or stop by my room next year. I would love to talk to you about the things you love about this place, and the things that you want to change. Believe me, I am all ears and I can’t wait to hear from you soon.

Bryanna Miller is the incoming Student Member of the Board of Visitors.  

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