This past Friday, the Colorado College community voted in junior Ben Kieklak as the new student trustee. As student trustee, Kieklak will become a full member of the Colorado College board of trustees for one year. This position exists to bring a student perspective to the board. The student position does not have the jurisdiction to create new legislation, but instead guides the board in the direction most in line with student body interests. Many board members do not live in Colorado Springs or even visit CC often, so while they have knowledge and experience to guide the college, Kieklak’s job is to bridge the gap between the board’s goals and the goals of the student body.
Kieklak heard about the position his first year at CC, but only started thinking about it seriously last year. He is an asian studies major, French minor, and an active member of the CC community. He is part of the Asian Student Union, a Resident Advisor, and works at the El Pomar Sports Center. In addition, Kieklak recently began tutoring kids who struggle with reading at Adams Elementary School. His position as an RA is what got Kieklak seriously thinking about becoming student trustee.
When Kieklak arrived at CC as a first-year, he was infatuated with the school and “so excited” to be here. The school has done so much for him in such a short time that he wanted to give back. The next year, as an RA in The Enclave, the Living Learning Community mostly for students of color, Kieklak noticed that other kids either simply weren’t loving CC like he did or were feeling left out.
These experiences left him with the desire to provide more than “just a Band-Aid.” He didn’t want short fixes to just help kids he knew. Rather, he wanted to create long-term solutions for the years and classes to come. Working with the board is the perfect opportunity to do so, as they focus on many long-term investments. Kieklak’s main initiative is to make “more people feel like they matter,” he said. “Even those who already feel supported will feel better if campus as a whole is more vibrant.”
Kieklak’s application process began at the beginning of Block 5. First he completed a written application explaining his interest in the position and had a sheet signed by 50 supporters. The signatures do not guarantee a vote but rather show consent for the candidate to carry on with their campaign. Kieklak said it was tempting to find 50 friends to sign the sheet but he made a point to put himself out there and talk to strangers to get the signatures. When he was able to get his name out there and explain himself, the signatures came quickly.
After the written application and signatures were submitted, applicants were then notified if they were accepted for an interview. In Kieklak’s case, he was interviewed by a panel of three board members, the current Student Trustee Mayss Al Alami, and the President’s Assistant, Jake Walden. In Kieklak’s words, “it was a very nice conversation.” From there the panel picked two candidates to proceed to an election by the entire student body. A contingency for this election was a debate in which the candidates were asked their opinions on several issues pertinent to both the student body and the board of trustees. In the days between the debate and the actual election, the two candidates were allowed to hang up posters to campaign. Kieklak also spent time reaching out to many groups and leaders on campus to connect with a larger variety of students.
One initiative Kieklak wants to push on the board is a continuation of the college’s current pledge to hire a more diverse faculty. He also wants to scrutinize the process of determining tenure-track faculty. It is his goal to further involve the voice of the students when faculty members are up for tenure. Kieklak wants to make sure both faculty and student voices are equally considered. In addition, he said keeping financial aid on the forefront of the board’s mind and potentially enlarging the financial aid fund will be of utmost importance. This, though always considered an important issue, was brought to the forefront of the campus mind with the New York Times’ recent publications on lack of economic diversity at CC. Kieklak stresses that he will advocate for these issues throughout his tenure and not let them fade into the background.
Kieklak will be sworn in as the Student Trustee at the board meeting in June, one of two yearly meetings. Former Student Trustee Mayss Al Alami will also attend the meeting to pass the torch. Al Alami had nothing but good things to say about her rewarding time as trustee. Prior to her position as student trustee, she was a member of CCSGA both as a first-year and a sophomore.
“I spoke up to represent the students’ voices on issues being discussed,” Al Alami said of her role as student trustee. “After the meetings I often had various trustees approach and ask more about the matter. I was so thrilled to have such enthusiasm from the trustees, and to be constantly treated with respect during the meetings, and to truly have my voice have an impact. That meant that the student body truly had a say in board decisions.”
For the rest of the year, Kieklak plans to stay very present on campus and table once a block so that people can stop by and talk about any suggestions they have for the Board. As always, Kieklak will be available through email and office hours. He also hopes to set up some type of online-accessible suggestions box. Kieklak’s position requires him to attend CCSGA meetings, and, while he won’t have a vote there, he acknowledges that they are important to attend to obtain a better idea of the direction the student body wants CC to move towards.
“My advice for the new Student Trustee, Ben, is to take advantage of this opportunity,” Al Alami concluded. “Do not be afraid to bring up controversial topics regarding the CC community if it means that a good conversation will be born out of it to benefit the CC community as a whole…This is such a wonderful position and I am so glad the student body could have a representative voice on such a wonderful Board of Trustees. I just hope that with its coming sixth year, the position can grow and improve and have a wider outreach than it ever did before. I look forward to attending the June 2017 Board retreat with Ben and working with him to transition the position adequately.”