With his appointment by Gov. Christine O. Gregoire, Bellevue College student Robert Rowe has become the first student in history to serve as a trustee at any of Washington state’s 34 community or technical colleges. His selection is the culmination of years of effort by Bellevue College students to gain this important representation.
Rowe, who is 52 and a resident of Auburn, earned a science transfer degree and a certificate in accounting at Bellevue College and is a Phi Theta Kappa honor society member. He is currently taking additional prerequisite courses needed to enter a bachelor’s degree program in education, all while working full-time as an electrician, and eventually plans to become a high school math teacher. Rowe has two daughters who currently attend the college, and another daughter who is a former student.
“It’s really quite an honor for me to serve on the board. I think it’s important to have student representation, so I can give the trustees the student’s perspective regarding significant decisions,” Rowe said.
Over the past five years, students at Bellevue College spearheaded the effort to allow those who attend the state’s community and technical colleges to serve on their boards of trustees, a right that students at the state’s public universities have had for years. Working under the guidance of Assistant Dean of Student Programs Faisal Jaswal, and with the support of BC’s administration and Board of Trustees, they created the outline of potential legislation, and even designated a student to spend significant time in Olympia during four of the last five legislative sessions to communicate the merits of the bill to lawmakers.
Those efforts resulted in the passage of SB 5217 in the Washington State Legislature and signed into law by Gregoire earlier this year. The law allows any college district’s board of trustees, which are comprised of five members, to establish a sixth trustee position to be filled by a student. The governor selects the student from a list of three to five candidates submitted by the student government of that college district.
“Robert is going to pave a path for other students to follow not only at Bellevue College, but at all of the state’s community and technical colleges. This will benefit students in the long run by giving them a stronger voice in the governance of their colleges,” Jaswal said.
As a student trustee, Rowe will have all of the duties and powers of a regular trustee, but must excuse himself from participation or voting on matters related to hiring, discipline or tenure of faculty and personnel, or any matters pertaining to collective bargaining agreements. His term lasts until June 30, 2013. Current members of BC’s Board of Trustees are: Paul Chiles (chair), Marie Gunn (vice chair), Lisa Chin, Steve Miller and Vicki Orrico.
“We’re delighted to welcome Robert to the board and look forward to the positive contributions he will make during his term,” Chiles said.