Governor should decide on trustee vote

85 days.

That’s how long it’s been since the beginning of the new term for the University Board of Trustees. It’s also how many days have elapsed since the student bodies on all three campuses have been able to cast a binding vote on any issue that’s come before the board.

Unfortunately, like so many other problems with Illinois government, the blame rests with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Not only does the governor appoint nine trustees to staggered six-year terms, but he also determines which of the three elected student trustees receives the binding vote.

In the past, the vote has rotated between the Chicago, Springfield and Urbana campuses. Last term, Urbana trustee Chime Asonye was empowered with the vote. But almost three months in, the governor has still not decided which trustee will receive the vote.

This means that students Paul Schmitt, James Winters and D. Craig McFarland, who technically represent the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses, respectively, are unable to exercise their statutorily granted power of voting.

Through his wildly unpopular amendatory vetoes, Blagojevich lately hasn’t seemed to be a fan of any bodies that vote on things. But by not acting he is, in effect, silencing the voice of tens of thousands of students who are the constituents of each student trustee.

Since he took office, Blagojevich has spoken about his commitment to higher education. Unfortunately, during most of his term, colleges throughout the state have had to deal with stagnant funding levels. This year’s 2.8 percent increase doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of institutions all over Illinois. Nevermind individual projects such as the Lincoln Hall renovation, which remain in limbo because of a non-existent capital bill.

Granted, higher education is not the only sector with unmet financial needs. But what kind of message does the governor send when he won’t make a simple choice that won’t cost the state a thing?

Say what you will about the Board of Trustees, and many have, but the members make decisions about this University’s future. If the governor wants to convince us that he values higher education as much as he has attested, he should decide which trustee gets the vote immediately.

Every day that Blagojevich delays, students are robbed of their rightful representation in the body that affects their education more than any other.

If the governor continues to drag his feet for no other reason than his own whims, he’ll prove that he is no better than what he’s rendered each of the student trustees: All talk.