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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Administration

Student application to the Board of Regents closes this week


The Board of Regents makes major decisions that impact over 73,000 students across the entire UH System. | Courtesy of Chris Stipes

SGA President Cameron Barrett has been vetting candidates for the coveted opportunity to serve as the sole student representative on the UH System Board of Regents, which oversees all major decisions throughout UH and its many satellite campus, since mid-July and the application will close Friday.

The student regent application can be found on AccessUH, under the Get Involved portal.

The student regent, a long-standing tradition in university systems throughout the nation and mandated in Texas, allows a student voice to influence the decisions that will impact the entire student body. Past UH student regents include Neelesh Mutyala, who served on the board when the medical school was approved.

Despite being a non-voting member on the Board of Regents, the student regent has an influential role in major University decisions, which annually include approving increases to parking permit and meal plan prices, in addition to on-campus housing rates. Student Government Association President Cameron Barrett is in charge of picking potential candidates to recommend to the Board, and said the regent is the only student to whom UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator answers.

“The purpose of the position is (to) structurally inject the student voice into the decisions made by the Board of Regents,” Barrett said. “They impact the student body as much as the regent is able to logically and rationally convince the board of their opinion.”

The UH System Board of Regents is the supreme governing body of the UH System that has a role in every major decision throughout University of Houston campuses.

The Board of Regents consists of nine members, excluding the non-voting student regent, and terms last for six years, said Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Kowalka. Terms are staggered, and three members are appointed to the board every two years during the legislative session, he said.

“The student regent is a full-fledged member of the Board of Regents with two exceptions: They are a non-voting member and do not count towards quorum,” said current Student Regent Andrew Teoh. “They are involved in every meeting, discussion and event. Because they are the only student, their feedback is welcomed and their voice is valued. It is a humbling responsibility.”

The Board of Regents is composed of nine distinguished members who the Texas governor appoints, and are confirmed by the Senate Regent, Kowalka said.

“Throughout its history, the Board of Regents has been composed of ardent advocates for excellence in quality of education, research, service and leadership, supporting institutional and regional growth and success,” Kowalka said.

The Board of Regents meets approximately four to five times per year, and the student regent is responsible for attending all meetings and participating in regent activities, Barrett said.

The regent is not compensated but is eligible for reimbursement of expenses related to board activities, including travel to meetings, Teoh said. The position comes with a level of prestige, however, and provides opportunities through these meetings and special events that are especially unique for a student.

Section 51.355 of the Texas Education Code calls for the appointment of one student regent to the Board of Regents per year, Kowalka said. This statute explains the duties of the student regent and lists qualifications and steps that must be taken throughout the appointment process.

The UH Board of Regents has five committees: Academic and Student Success, Audit and Compliance, Endowment Management, Facilities, Construction and Master Planning and Finance and Administration, Kowalka said. The student regent is a resource — providing a fresh student perspective     for other board members on issues that the full board is discussing, he said.

The appointment process begins with the SGA president, who interviews all candidates for the student regent position and then gives their recommendation to the Board of Regents, Barrett said.

The regent does not have a major impact on SGA initiatives, but Teoh has met with SGA to discuss initiatives a couple times, Barrett said. These meetings keep Teoh informed on what SGA is working on, and allows him to better voice what students are concerned about when meeting with the Board of Regents, he said. 

The president consults with SGA leaders before making their recommendation, he said.

“I will invite the speaker of the Senate, the current regent and a number of other student leaders to attend the interview, and I will make my recommendations based on everyone’s feedback,” Barrett said. “I’m looking for someone dedicated who can reasonably explain their position in any given scenario, with a good work history and a history of excellence on and off campus.”

Dr. Richard Walker, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, and Jason Smith, vice president for Governmental Relations, serve as the interview and screening team, Kowalka said. All students recommended by the SGA of the four UH System institutions will be interviewed for the position, he said.

“Candidates should be knowledgeable about the University of Houston System, should have the ability to network and serve as a role model for all students in the UH System, as well as being articulate when representing the point of view of students of the University of Houston System to the Board of Regents,” Kowalka said.

President Khator reviews the recommended applicants and recommends at least two students to the governor of Texas, Kowalka said.

The regent must be prepared to engage in a diverse array of events, Teoh said.

“I would advise a future student regent to always say ‘yes’ to new opportunities,” Teoh said. “Regents are invited to countless meetings and events across the system and the city — these are especially unique opportunities for a student.”

The final candidate is appointed by the governor of Texas and will represent around 73,000 students within the UH System, Teoh said. The UH System includes the main UH campus, UH-Downtown, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria, he said.

As the only student, it’s my responsibility to share insight from a student’s perspective on items coming before the board,” Teoh said. “In this role, I hope to contribute meaningfully to important discussions and decisions, sharing a perspective that otherwise may not be heard.”

The student regent is an important influencing factor in decisions made by the Board of Regents, and applicants must be prepared to represent the entire UH System, Teoh said.

“Additionally, I’d encourage my successor to fully participate in student life across the entire system, not just at the flagship campus,” Teoh said. “Our sister institutions in Victoria, Clear Lake and Downtown have distinct personalities and over 25,000 students. A regent has the responsibility to serve them all.”

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