As the semester winds down, any Amarillo College student can speak like an expert on how to be a student. They can profess their love for that certain extra-comfy bench outside of Durrett Hall, they can give a solid 10-minute speech on which speech teacher is the worst and why, and they can relay every piece of advice they have on how to get a parking spot with minimal road rage.
Even though students are well informed and suited for their roles at AC, few students know much about the roles of the people making the college run so smoothly. On May 11, a citywide election will be held, including not only mayoral candidates and city commissioners, but also the AC board of regents. Few students, if any, can adequately explain what the AC board of regents does, let alone name any of the candidates running for the four open seats. (more after the video)
Watch the video to hear student opinions regarding the importance of the government of the school.
The board of regents consists of members who serve for either two-year terms or six-year terms. AC Communication Coordinator Joe Wyatt explained that currently, one of the two-year term members’ terms is expiring, and three of the six-year term members’ terms are expiring. This means that in the May 11 election, only four spots are up for grabs.
Two people, David T. Hudson and incumbent regent Mary Jane Nelson, are running against each other.
Wyatt said that of the candidates running for the three six-year term spots, two are incumbents. Regent H. Bryan Poff Jr. gave up the last seat when he opted not to run for the seat again after its expiration this year, so there are seven total candidates vying for those three seats. These seven candidates are Scott Elliott, Marie Ellyson, Johnny Mize, Mark Nair, John Windham and incumbents Paul L. Proffer, and David C. Woodburn. Therefore, there will be at least one new regent, if not more, since there is one more seat than there are incumbents. Wyatt also pointed out that because Amarillo uses cumulative voting, in this election, citizens get a vote for each open seat. When voting for the six-year term spots, citizens get three votes because there are three open seats, and these votes can be distributed in any way the voter wants. In the two-year term spot, voters will only vote for one candidate since there is only one spot open.
“It’s gratifying that so many people have shown interest in leadership at the college,” Wyatt said. “It’s a reflection of how vital we are. They understand the importance of this college to the community and it raises our hopes that people see us as a very important asset.”
On April 25, the AC Student Government Association and the League of Women Voters collaborated to present a candidates forum for all candidates in the upcoming Amarillo election, including the AC board of regents. In the forum, SGA President Mikhaela Sample and Vice President TJ Williams each asked the candidates a question, and then questioning was opened up to the audience. (more after the video)
Click on the video to see full coverage of the forum. Video courtesy of The Amarillo Independent.
Williams asked the candidates what regents do and how they planned to fulfill the role if elected, and each candidate spent some time explaining the role of an AC regent. Candidate John Windham expressed the importance of regents with a passion for the school.
“Every regent has to be passionate about what they’re doing, about the college, the success of students, the faculty, and the curriculum,” Windham said.
Windham also added that he has a unique view of AC compared to the other candidates because he is currently enrolled in AC learning to become a web designer.
Sample threw the candidates a curveball by asking, “If a proposal was brought to you to raise tuition and fees, under what circumstances would you raise them?” Mark Nair said that AC actually did have to raise fees about two months ago and that part of the blame lies with the declining funding from the state government, but he still had an answer for Sample.
“I think specifically what we have to do is keep control as much as we can before raising tuition or fees,” Nair said. “AC is very, very good, but what it can be instead is great.”
Proffer agreed with Nair’s accusation that the state would be the reason behind tuition or fees rising, citing that in 2005, about 40% of the state budget was appropriated to colleges, and now it is projected to decline to 25%. Nelson said that although it is a difficult decision to make, sometimes there are no other options and raising tuition and fees has to be done.
An audience member asked the candidates what the regents are paid and inquired as to whether the position requires a degree. While almost every candidate listed the degrees and ample qualifications they had during their opening statements, they answered that the position does not require a degree.
As for payment, Hudson concisely explained that regents do not get compensation for their time on the board.
“That’s not why I’m doing this,” Hudson said.
Another audience member asked if AC would ever become an accredited four-year institution. Elliott discussed the importance of AC’s role in the community by remaining a two-year college.
“When you specialize in something you can hone in and do it right,” Elliott said. “We have WT right down the road, Texas Tech and the University of North Texas not too far away, and that spreads out the expertise and makes it a competition. AC has another role, and I think that’s where it gets its strength; we need to fine tune what it can do for the community.”
Johnny Mize pointed out the financial benefits of AC for students as well.
“In business, it’s really important to understand what you are and what you aren’t. AC is not a four-year university. Over 60% of students that go to AC are below the poverty level. They can’t afford to go off to a university yet. That’s what AC is for.”
Although many students are not as aware of the board of regents as they are of the schedule of cheap food fundraisers at the clock tower, the regent candidates for the election on May 11 certainly plan to make student success their focal point if they win a seat.
“We as a group should make the success of students the mission of AC,” Nair said in his closing statement. “We have to keep the best interest of the students.”