Student trustees who serve on the Kern Community College District board will now be able to offer an advisory vote at future meetings.
During their meeting Thursday, trustees were tasked with approving one of two board policy revisions that pertain to delegation of authority to the district chancellor. Board policy 2430 stated, "The District Chancellor is the Chief Executive Officer of the District. All functions of the District are directed by the District Chancellor in keeping with policies established by the Board of Trustees."
Trustees approved an alternative board policy proposal that states, "The Chancellor is appointed by the Board of Trustees. ... Authority flows from the Board of Trustees through the Chancellor to the College Presidents. ... The College President is the final authority at the college level."
But more than just discussing the chancellor's authority, Bakersfield College students and employees were disappointed in the lack of revisions to the student trustee's role, specifically with allowing them to have an advisory vote.
According to the Community College League of California, an advisory vote does not count in determining if an item passes, but may be logged in the official minutes.
Samantha Pulido, the Bakersfield College Student Government Association president, said it was one of the recommendations she and her peers made to the chancellor.
"Through the student trustee, 37,398 students are being represented districtwide. On the statewide level … the Student Senate for the California Community Colleges is advocating for full voting rights for the student trustees," Pulido said. "Several community colleges … are coming together to ensure their students are being represented effectively and efficiently by being part of the conversations that are directly affecting them."
She added 52 out of 70 community college districts in California allow their student trustee to have an advisory vote, making KCCD one of 18 that doesn't.
An advisory vote has more purpose and opportunity to send a message to the community and trustees that students have a certain viewpoint on a particular issue, Pulido explained, while also showing the more than 39,000 students in the district their voice matters.
Bakersfield College women's basketball coach Paula Dahl also supported the addition of an advisory vote, saying since so many students are passionate enough to be part of committees, "it is so important for us to allow them to have insights and provide those."
The advisory vote, in Chancellor Thomas Burke's opinion, would be duplicative. Though he believes it's appropriate for a student trustee to have input on issues, an advisory vote is not necessary, he said.
He added the student trustee currently has the flexibility to weigh in on issues, but with an advisory vote, "there would be a responsibility to review all items on the agenda, which can be probably extremely more time consuming for the current student trustee."
Trustees Romeo Agbalog, Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg and Kay Meek, however, said they could not see a downside to the suggestion.
"As we look at society today, it’s very difficult to get people engaged in the governance process, a lot of folks are apathetic to politics and participation, and here we have a real opportunity to allow students to not just participate in the governance process, but we’re enhancing their educational experience by allowing them to participate as a student trustee," Agbalog said.
An amendment to allow for a student trustee to enter an advisory vote was included with the approval of the alternative board policy proposal.