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Led by 4Cs Students, Change to Student Trustee Statute Becomes Law

December 18, 2020

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Fiscal Year 2021 budget into law, bringing with it a change in eligibility requirements for Student Trustees at community colleges and state universities in Massachusetts. The effort to change the decades-old law, and address the significant equity issues it has caused in recent years, was led by Cape Cod Community College’s Student Government Association (SGA) President, Caitlin Marotta, and Vice President, Lindzie White.

Under the newly passed law, students who are enrolled on a part-time basis are now eligible to hold the position of Student Trustee, which is a seat on each college’s governing Board of Trustees. This position serves as a key voice on the Board, bringing a student voice to decision making processes related to finances and operation of the institution. The position had previously been attached to full-time enrollment status for decades, despite changing demographics in the state’s community college system where more than two-thirds of all students are enrolled on a part-time basis.

“We are of course excited that our hard work in changing this law has paid off, but we’re even more excited for the generations of student leaders that will come after us,” said Caitlin Marotta. “Now more than ever, it is critical that student voices be elevated and heard by senior leadership, and by the entire Commonwealth. We are thankful for the state legislators that worked with us and took the time to hear us out, and for the Student Advisory Council to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education for prioritizing the effort. We can’t wait to meet the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Cape Cod Community College Student Government Association started the push to change the Student Trustee law in December 2019.  Working with faculty advisor, Professor Claudine Barnes, and staff on the legislative proposal, they worked tirelessly with both local officials and those at the State House.

“We are immensely proud of our 4Cs student leaders for leading the charge to have this law changed,” said John Cox, President of Cape Cod Community College. “For months, they have been working closely with our state legislators to address the significant equity issue caused by the previous iteration of the Student Trustee law. The bottom line is that the vast majority of students enrolled in state colleges and universities are doing so on a part-time basis. This is because they are balancing the challenges of life and education with finances, family obligations, and full-time jobs. We are now able to welcome these voices to the decision-making bodies within higher education across Massachusetts. Their voices, at long last, will be heard loud and clear.”

Across Massachusetts students of color are enrolled on a part-time basis at a greater percentage than white students. The previous law inherently created barriers for them to serve as Student Trustee and voice their thoughts in shaping College policy. 

“Our part-time students are the current backbone of the entire higher education system in Massachusetts,” said Lindzie White. “Their challenges are real, and they are felt by thousands of students at every institution across the state. We’re excited that every Board of Trustees will have the opportunity to benefit from their experiences.”

Earlier this year, Cape Cod Community College’s Student Trustee had to resign, facing issues related to the full-time enrollment requirements. An emergency election was held in October where a new Trustee, Max Kennedy of Marstons Mills, was elected.