For the second time in three years, the University of Wyoming Faculty Senate is requesting Gov. Matt Mead recognize the need for diversity on the UW Board of Trustees.
With the first faculty senate resolution calling for parity of men and women on the board of trustees approved in 2014, the faculty senate unanimously passed another Monday.
“We’ve never had more than three voting women on the board at one time,” professor and Faculty Senate Secretary Donal O’Toole said. “I hear all this huffing and puffing, and I see ‘equality’ plastered all over everything, but people just pay it lip service.”
Women comprise 49 percent of the state’s population, 53 percent of the university’s student body and 41 percent of UW faculty.
Of the 12 governor-appointed UW trustees, only two are women, O’Toole said.
With bankers, lawyers, oil tycoons and doctors, O’Toole said the board make-up represented some of the best the state had to offer — of a single economic class and ethnicity. The board is also predominately Republican and male.
“I’m not saying women would disrupt that, but it would offer some different ways of thinking,” O’Toole said. “We just lost Mike Massie — one of the few people who disrupted groupthink.”
Massie, a Democrat who was fulfilling the late Warren Lauer’s term, was not reappointed to the board in February. Instead, Mead appointed four men, all white and all Republican with the exception of Dr. David Fall, a 30-year Republican who switched to independent weeks before his appointment.
Mead did not respond to requests for comment by press time Friday.
“If we’re the equality state, we should reflect that,” said Maggi Murdock, a UW professor of political science. “We don’t need ‘x’ number of blacks, Native Americans, men or women. We need diversity of opinion.”
She said having people from different backgrounds, genders and ages would help prevent groupthink.
“Groupthink is where we’re all thinking a little alike,” Murdock said. “We’re all heading in the same direction.”
Despite the board’s lack of diversity, she said she wasn’t sure they were doing a bad job.
“I can’t tell you the board of trustees is headed in the wrong direction — I don’t think that’s true,” Murdock said. “But we’re setting a bad example for the state.”
UW Board of Trustee President John MacPherson said board diversity is not decided by the board.
“That’s a matter that rests with the governor,” he said. “I would hope he would choose the most qualified person regardless of gender or ethnicity.”
Although MacPherson said he couldn’t comment on whether the board was diverse enough to represent the student body or state, he said diversity improved a board’s ability to make decisions.
“Having served on school boards for most of my life, I always felt a deciding body benefits from philosophies at all ends of the spectrum,” he said.
Appointed to the board in 2011, MacPherson said he was confident in the board’s current composition.
“In my opinion, we have the strongest board since I became involved with the board,” MacPherson said.
The resolution also calls for President Laurie Nichols as UW’s appointed spokesperson to publicly advocate for greater gender diversity on the board.
Nichols did not respond to requests for comment by press time Friday.
Even though the next trustees aren’t slated to be appointed until 2019 and Mead isn’t eligible for reelection in 2018, Murdock said the faculty wanted to make a statement with the resolution.
“What I know it won’t do — it won’t change the board currently,” Murdock said. “No one is going to give up their seat so we can have more diversity.”
But reiterating the message now might resonate with the next governor, Murdock said.
“What I hope it will do is create some awareness as we have a discussion during the election of 2018,” she said.
As part of the election, Murdock said she would like to see discussions about the ways UW could be a model for the state — starting with its board.
“I don’t believe for a moment there are no qualified women in the state or no qualified people of color in the state to serve on the board of trustees,” she said. “We’re in challenging times. We have challenging times ahead. We need to understand that we should use all the resources we have.”