NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

A conversation with student trustee Courtney Morin

Courtney Morin serves as the Northern Essex Community College Student Government Association’s Vice President of Haverhill and also as the Student Trustee on NECC’s Board of Trustees.

In recent SGA meetings, she and Stephanie Haskell, a member of NECC’s staff and the advisor to the SGA (a position whose holder authorizes SGA votes and serves as the bridge between the student government and NECC higher-ups), have talked about a legal campaign proposed by the Student Advisory Council members to change the laws surrounding the election of the Student Trustee.

To find out more about their intent to challenge the laws and what the Student Trustee does at NECC, NECC Observer SGA Correspondent Jonas Ruzek sat down in his bedroom to interview Morin virtually. Below is the conversation that took place.

JONAS RUZEK: “How and why was the student trustee position established?”

COURTNEY MORIN: “The student trustee position is a position written into Massachusetts General Law. The reason why the position was established is not written. However, I suspect that it was to give a student voice to each public college’s Board of Trustees.”

RUZEK: “What are your roles and responsibilities as the student trustee?”

MORIN: “To act as the student representative to the Board of Trustees, be a voting member on the board and attend monthly meetings to discuss enrollment reports, planning, emeritus approvals, tenure approvals, sabbatical approvals and reports, audit reports, budget reports, fiscal year budget reports, campus safety reports, and other matters.

“The student trustee is also a voting member to the Student Advisory Council to the Board of Higher Education. The student trustee can also be a member on one of the committees on the college’s board of trustees, such as the Presidential Evaluation Committee, where President [Lane] Glenn’s leadership is evaluated each year.

“While it is not a requirement, Trustees are highly encouraged to be involved in and attend the Student Government Association, as they can be the bridge between the SGA and the Board of Trustees. This includes the ability to inform the SGA of any matters that may concern them and the student body as a whole (such as tuition increases, campus safety and armed police on campus, etc.).”

RUZEK: “When and how is the student trustee usually elected? And what are the necessary qualifications a prospective trustee must possess?”

MORIN: “The student trustee is elected every spring semester, usually at the end of April and early May. According to Massachusetts General Law, the new student trustee is to be elected by May 15. Students must be considered full-time students and be in good academic standing.”

RUZEK: “Is the position paid? Also, how long are terms?”

MORIN: “No, it is fully voluntary, and terms are one year, from July 1-June 30. But a Student Trustee is allowed to run for reelection.”

RUZEK: “What legal change to the laws surrounding the position are being proposed by Stephanie Haskell? Why is she pushing for this change?”

MORIN: “The legal changes to the laws surrounding the position are not being proposed by Stephanie; they are being proposed by the Student Advisory Council members. The change would be to alter the requirement of full-time to part-time. This would make the position open to more students and would be more equitable to the population of community college students specifically, as much of our population is part-time.”

RUZEK: “Do you foresee in the near future any change to the laws? If so, what kind of change?”

MORIN: “In the face of COVID-19, I don’t see any change to the laws, specific to this change in requirement, happening soon, However, it is something that I hope won’t be forgotten in the aftereffects of the pandemic. This change is important, though, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Also, for the law to change we need a legislature to sponsor the law first. I’m unaware right now if the Student Advisory Council members have gotten one yet. Then they have to go through a very long process of changing a law.”

RUZEK: “How high of a priority do you think change to the laws should be? How much of a problem do you consider current laws to be?”

MORIN: “For community colleges specifically, I think that the law is outdated and doesn’t reflect the current population of community college students.”

“Even at the university level, there are more part-time students attending than ever. A student is a student, and we should not be disqualifying certain students because they aren’t considered full time, especially if there is already a concern in our student population of hunger and homelessness.

“Many have to go only part-time so that they can support themselves and/or their families, be this through working one-two jobs, taking care of kids or other family members, dealing with chronic illness, transportation, food, etc. They are still members of our NECC community, or their respective college communities, and their voices should still be able to be heard as such.”

RUZEK: “Is there anything else you want the public to know?”

MORIN: “Student voice is fundamental to the operation of colleges. There would be no colleges if there were no students. The Student Trustee position allows this voice to reach the people at the top of the ladder and to make certain that our voices can be heard if need be.

“It’s an incredibly interesting position, as you are able to see two sides of the governance process: the student perspective and the administrative perspective. Sometimes these don’t align, but the ability to hear and see the perspectives of the administration on why they chose to do X, Y and Z is incredibly valuable. ”