Med student explains life on UT’s Board of Regents

The Daily Texan
Chris Kosho
March 5, 2010

Like any other fourth-year medical student, Karim Meijer grinds away for four weeks up to 12 hours a day in rotations ranging from internal medicine to surgery. In the fall, he enthusiastically watches his former Longhorn football team battle it out on the gridiron.

And in his free time, he visits 15 UT campuses, pitches ideas on where to dole out endowment funds and helps set the tuition that the more than 202,000 students in the UT System will have to pay.

Thus the life of the student regent on the Board of Regents.

“It just comes down to time management,” Meijer said. “You end up having to make some sacrifices.”

After decades of struggle by students across the state, the state legislature created the student Regent position in 2005. Like all the other Regents, the Student Regent is appointed by the governor, though he or she only serves for one year as opposed to the traditional six-year term.

The Student Regent is given all the access and privileges of the other Regents, except for the right to vote. Meijer said he feels the restriction does not hinder his ability to contribute as he still offers a perspective different than the other Regents.

“I’ve been [in school] much more recently than the rest of them,” Meijer said. “I’m more in touch with the atmosphere and I see things slightly differently.”

Meijer said his role on the board is the same as all the other Regents, which is to provide the best form of education to the students in the system. Meijer said because he is appointed by the governor as opposed to being elected by students, his role is not to be a student representative.

“I feel I’m more a Regent who is a student, kind of like a Regent who is also a banker,” Meijer said. Meijer said he has visited and spoken to student leaders at almost every campus in the system, and has made his accessibility clear.

At a time of economic belt tightening and tuition increases at universities, many students and faculty have said they have felt a detachment from the budgetary decision that have been made. Meijer said he received no phone calls or e-mails from students that opposed the system-wide increases, which he said could be because he feels many students are not aware of the student regent position.

Meijer, currently a medical student at UT Southwestern, graduated from UT-Austin in 2006 with degrees in business honors and finance. He also started on special teams for the Longhorns’ 2005 national-champion football team.

Students interested in the student regent position must apply at the university level in the fall semester. Applications are gathered and filtered by the UT System, which then must send a minimum of two recommendations to the Governor’s office.

John Davis Rutkauskas, a business honors and finance sophomore, applied for the position earlier in the year. Rutkauskas, who serves on UT’s Presidents’ Student Advisory Council, said if he gets the appointment, he hopes to create incentives for college students to become K-12 teachers. Rutkauskas said he has spoken to Meijer a few times and has started familiarizing himself with the process.

“[Meijer said] the challenge is figuring out before you get into the process what the role of the student regent is,” Rutkauskas said. “That way, the transition process of changing the student regent every year [doesn’t create] a gap.”

The governor’s office has until June 1 to announce its appointment.