Two Vermont lawmakers — Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, and Rep. David Durfee, D-Shaftsbury — were elected Thursday to the boards of trustees of the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges.

The election, a regular and largely undramatic affair, was Masland’s fourth. And, if a new bill in the Vermont legislature becomes law, it also could be his last.

Senate Bill 248 would shake up the boards of trustees of Vermont’s public institutions of higher education — the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges System — by adding faculty and staff trustees and imposing term limits.

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If passed, that bill would put in place a two-term limit for trustees. But it also would set in motion a dramatic shift in the power dynamic of the boards, which oversee the education of nearly 25,000 students at five colleges across the state.

“We are going through very big transformations,” said Linda Olson, a professor at Castleton University who is among those spearheading the bill. “And so I think it’s more important than ever that we have these voices at the table.”

Currently, the 25-member UVM board of trustees is made up of nine lawmakers, nine “self-perpetuating” members — people elected by the board itself — three gubernatorial appointees, two students, the governor and the university’s president.

The Vermont State Colleges board is made up of 15 people: five appointed by the governor, four lawmakers elected by the legislature, four trustees elected by the board itself, the governor and one student.

But if passed, S.248 will add nine new trustees to the University of Vermont board: four faculty members, four staff members and one additional student.

The Vermont State Colleges’ board would increase from 15 to 23. New trustees would include four faculty members, four staff members and two additional students. Meanwhile, the governor would appoint only three trustees instead of five.

Trustees also would be limited to only two terms — meaning that Masland would be allowed to serve out the rest of his term, but no more.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Education Wednesday, faculty and staff members at the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges said the bill would give the boards much-needed perspective.

“The (UVM) Board of Trustees has shut out the voices of faculty, staff and many students, and there is no opportunity for meaningful participation,” Eleanor Miller, the president of the faculty union at the University of Vermont, said in testimony submitted to lawmakers Wednesday. “Valuable, thoughtful input from these core members of our institution is ignored.”

Along with her written testimony, Olson submitted a petition in support of the bill to the Senate Education Committee. The petition was signed by a couple hundred people, including faculty and staff as well as people unaffiliated with the colleges, Olson said.

According to the bill’s advocates, 26% of the country’s public colleges have faculty members on their boards of trustees.

“Oftentimes, (board members are) looking at it from a mile high and they don’t see the actual student-facing perspective, or the day-to-day perspective,” Olson said. “That’s often missing.”

Enrique Corredera, a spokesperson for the University of Vermont, said that faculty and staff there “already help shape day-to-day operations through the university’s shared governance system.”

He declined to address the bill specifically, but cited administrative committees on the school’s finances and policies that allow for faculty and staff membership.

“As representatives on each of these committees, faculty and staff are at the table and engage fully in each committee’s work and discussions,” he said.

A Vermont State Colleges spokesperson did not immediately respond to a phone call and emailed request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Students’ and employees’ push for more representation on the boards come as the state’s public institutes of higher education undergo sometimes controversial transformations.

At the University of Vermont, amid budget concerns, administrators have cut a series of academic programs across the last few years.

Meanwhile, the Vermont State Colleges are embarking on a controversial consolidation process that will see three of its colleges — Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College— combined into one system called the Vermont State University.

“I see there may be some benefit in adding a faculty member or two. But the rest of it I’m gonna reserve judgment on,” Masland said of the bill. “We don’t have term limits in the House and Senate, and I’m not sure it would be necessarily beneficial to add term limits to trustees’ terms.”

Riley Robinson contributed reporting.

Correction: Earlier versions of this article misstated which colleges in the Vermont State Colleges are merging into the Vermont State University system.

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