Jacob Binnall, a graduate student at the School of Public Policy, has been sworn in by Gov. Charlie Baker to serve on the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, as student trustee for the Amherst campus.
The UMass system is governed by a 22-member board that represents various interests of the public at large on a non-partisan basis. Seventeen members of the board are appointed by the governor and the five UMass students are elected by the student body on each of the five campuses.
Binnall is in SPP’s 4+1 Master of Public Policy program. A first-generation college student, he received his bachelor’s in political science and legal studies in May. As an undergraduate, he served in the Student Government Association, as a senator, chair of the finance committee, and secretary of the registry. He decided to run for student trustee, he said, because it offered him an opportunity to continue his involvement in UMass governance and student advocacy, this time on the system level. “There are so many important things that get decided by the Board of Trustees, that impact so many aspects of our daily student lives,” he said.
Massachusetts was one of the first states to include students on its higher education board, Binnall noted. “I’ve always been interested in how revolutionary that piece of Massachusetts policy on higher education is and how influential students can be on that board and how many different interests can be represented.”
As a trustee, Binnall will represent the voices and advocate for the interests of students on the Amherst campus. He will also serve on two board committees: student affairs and administration and finance. His priorities include bolstering support for first-generation college students and looking at ways to improve digital learning in the UMass system. In addition, he’ll advocate for student organizations—something that was also important to him during his time in the Student Government Association. “There’s a lot of student power in these organizations,” he said. “A lot of what makes UMass UMass is the opportunity for students to develop as leaders in these groups.”
Binnall is also advocating to give student trustees a larger voice on the board. Currently, two the five student members have voting rights. Voting seats rotate each year, with UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School students holding them this year. When student seats were created, there were two UMass campuses in the system. Earlier this summer, Binnall and other students testified before a hearing of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Higher Education in support of H.1222, a bill that would expand voting rights to all student trustees.
Binnall is spending the summer in Boston as a municipal collaboration intern at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. After receiving his Master of Public Policy next year, he’s considering a career in municipal planning or government affairs.