In-state residency should not be a deciding factor in whether a student can serve on board of trustees

The Daily Illini editorial board endorsed Carey Ash to be the next University student trustee, but if you’ve logged onto to check out the ballot, you’ll notice that his name isn’t listed. Ash was not granted Illinois residency by Dean Kenneth T. Ballom in the Office of the Dean of Students, and according to state law, the student trustee must be a resident of the state of Illinois and maintain throughout the term. 

Regardless of the unnecessary residency requirement, we stand by our endorsement of Ash, even if that means having to write him in.

The thought behind such a requirement is apparent: U of I is a land-grant institution that receives funding from the state. As such, the University of Illinois Trustees Act requires that those who oversee the allocation of the University’s $5 billion budget, including the student trustee, should be Illinois residents.

The University also has a duty to its in-state students because the foremost goal of a land-grant institution is to provide a quality education to its residents. The school does so for the 78.5 percent of its undergraduates who are from Illinois. However, in recent years, the University has been pushing for greater diversity, including attracting more out-of-state and international students, as seen by plans to open an additional office in China.

The residency requirement for student trustee defies the purpose of the position’s role, which is to be the most direct representation of the student body on the board of trustees, the most powerful governing body of the University. The requirement precludes equal and fair representation of the student body.

Even with a significant out-of-state population, the University’s first duty is to providing a quality and accessible education to Illinois residents, but that doesn’t mean that out-of-state students should be ignored. They are just as much a part of the University as any other, and they deserve the chance to have a representative that is not an Illinois resident.

Although Ash may not be an Illinois resident, he has been on this campus for five years as a law student and Ph. D. candidate — more time than almost any undergraduate in-state student.

It should not matter that the student trustee establishes residency. Either the candidate is qualified or the candidate is not, but he or she is always a student of the University of Illinois, the only requirement that truly matters.