Educators and students breathed a sigh of relief as Proposition 30 passed with a four point majority on Nov. 6. Not only did Gov. Brown promise no further cuts to the University of California or California State University if voters approved the tax initiative, but the CSU board of trustees promised to give students a rebate for the 9 percent tuition hike paid during the Fall 2012 semester, and not to raise tuition for Spring 2013.
The board of trustees has received negative attention from student activists because tuition has been increased by more than 383 percent since 2001.
Peggy Johnson, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at CSUN, said that the board needs to understand and articulate both sides of an argument for any decision they make.
“The board has a huge responsibility to their constituency,” she said. “Right now we’re in a difficult budget situation so decisions weigh heavily.”
Although the trustees are responsible for enacting tuition hikes, many students do not know who they are or what they do.
Kristina Kolesnyk, a junior English major, said she recalled the name from reading automated CSUN e-mails, but knew nothing more about the board.
“I wouldn’t connect the CSU board of trustees with the budget or tuition if I had just heard that title,” Kolesnyk said.
Aside from managing tuition fees, trustees review requests for new buildings on campuses, campus presidents’ salaries, and new system-wide programs, such as Cal State Online. Made up of 23 members, the board meets six times a year at the chancellor’s office in Long Beach.
There can be up to 25 members on the board, which includes two students, one faculty member, and one CSU alumnus.
The board allows two student trustees who each serve a single two-year term. Student trustees cannot vote until their second year on the board.
This year’s voting member is Jillian Ruddell, 22, a senior from CSU Chico majoring in multicultural and gender and women’s studies and political science with minors in sexual diversity and sociology.
The non-voting member is senior Cipriano Vargas, majoring in sociology and gender and women’s studies at CSU San Marcos.
Vargas helped create Civility Campaign on his campus, a program which promotes a “respectful, caring community at CSUSM,” according to the campaign’s website. He also served as chair on the University Student Union’s Advisory Board and is a current member of MEChA.
In order for students to be CSU trustees they must apply and have their applications reviewed by the California State Student Association. If the applications are approved they are interviewed by the Academic Senate’s president panel. The Academic Senate is a group of 53 elected faculty members who recommend academic policies to the board.
An applicant’s information is then submitted to Brown, who can choose to appoint students to the board.
Ruddell was appointed by Brown in 2011 and said she decided to apply because she believes being a trustee is an opportunity to bring awareness to issues regarding diversity and enact change.
“Voting has been an opportunity to give a voice to the student pulse,” she said. “I feel a great amount of pressure to represent the students well, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge so far.”
Ruddell has served as director for CSU Chico’s Associated Students women’s center, as co-president of PRIDE/Safezone club since 2009 and co-founded the school’s LGBT Leadership Conference. She also received a stipend in the summer from the University Honors Program to develop a proposal for a Gender and Sexuality Equity Center on her campus.
Similar to student trustees, faculty trustees are nominated by the Academic Senate before the governor can appoint anyone. Bernadette Cheyene, appointed in 2011, is a professor of theater, film, and dance at Humboldt State, according to her biography on the CSU board website.
Cheyene, along with Ruddell and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, had voted against the board’s contingency plan for Proposition 30, said Michael Uhlenkamp, director of Media Relations and New Media for the CSU.
There are five trustees known as ex officio members, meaning they have the same privileges and rights as all other trustees on the board, but also hold an executive office. Those members are Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, Torlakson, and new CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.
White was announced as CSU’s seventh chancellor on Oct. 4 and is transitioning from his position as chancellor of UC Riverside. He is expected to start in December for the upcoming Spring 2013 semester.
All other trustees are appointed by a governor, except for the alumni trustee, who is appointed by the CSU Statewide Alumni Council. A. Robert Linscheid, board chair, is the CSU alumnus and attended CSU Chico.
Trustees are not paid to serve on the board. Ex officio and faculty members keep their salaries in their other positions. Members can serve multiple eight year terms, while faculty and alumni can serve multiple two-year terms.