Photo and Story by Eric Goodwin / Contributing Writer
MTSU held its inaugural Board of Trustees meeting Monday in the Student Union Ballroom. The Board of Trustees formally elected its officers, adopted bylaws and confirmed the student trustee.
Marking the first of multiple meetings over the coming years, much time was spent establishing policies that give the Board authority to make future university decisions.
Proposals for the new Boards of Trustees were included in Governor Bill Haslam’s Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act signed in June 2016.
Some of the notable powers of the Board of Trustees will be the ability to select the university president, prescribe diploma requirements, set fiscal policies for the school, approve the school’s operating budget and set policies regarding student life, such as student conduct, housing and parking.
Before the Board of Trustees was created, the Tennessee Board of Regents made those decisions, but the sheer amount of universities and colleges they had to address limited the amount of time they could give to each school, Haslam said.
“While the old Tennessee Board of Regents played a great function, and they played a historical role in pulling a lot of our different postsecondary institutions together, I knew there was no way they could adequately focus on the six universities, the community college and the colleges of applied technology,” he said during the meeting.
Stephen B. Smith, chair of the board of Haury and Smith Contractors Inc., was elected board chair, and former executive chairman of software company Zycron Inc, Darrell Freeman Sr., was elected vice president.
Former Student Government Association President Lindsey Pierce Weaver, who graduated from MTSU in 2016, was elected as the student trustee following her nomination from President McPhee.
“I think it’s an incredible honor to represent the students,” Weaver said. “I think this is another way to represent the students and make sure their voices are heard, but also to where … we can reiterate back to the students why we make decisions.”
Weaver said she thinks the SGA “will be a strong entity that will take opinions” from students.
She said she is “looking forward to the idea that we can have monthly meetings with the vice president of student affairs, with the student government association president that will be soon elected and other entities of the university to make sure that we’re working towards similar goals.”
Governor Bill Haslam gave his remarks before the meeting was called to order, stressing why he chose to include separate boards of trustees for each of the six state universities in Tennessee.
“We had to have a way that let every institution play to its strength,” Haslam said.
Eight of the 10 board members have degrees from the university. Haslam said he thinks that because of the intimacy of the Board with MTSU, the members “will produce a lot of fruit for something (the members) care about.”
Chair Smith stressed the importance of the positions in the future success of MTSU.
“This is not just an honorary position,” he said.
Smith noted the “moral and financial responsibilities” the Board of Trustees has for the students, which he referred to as customers, as well as Tennessee taxpayers.
“The goal is simple: (To) graduate men and women who are equipped to lead and serve our nation’s prosperity and freedom. Now let’s go to work,” he said.
Smith also appointed members of the Board of Trustees to specific committees that deal with issues such as accreditation and auditing.
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