University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy (left) and chair of the board of trustees Trish Riley (right) attend a meeting in Belfast on July 11, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

More student representation will be added to the University of Maine System’s board of trustees, under a law signed by Gov. Janet Mills.

Two UMaine System students will now be full voting members of the 17-member board. That’s up from one seat that was previously held by a student. Both will have voting power, with one representing undergraduate students and another representing graduates.

The change comes as the system wrestles with issues including a unionization effort from graduate student workers, budget challenges caused by declining enrollment and more.

Board Chair Trish Riley said students have already helped push for major recent policy changes, including divesting from fossil fuels. She hopes the additional student voice will help leaders navigate an uncertain financial future.

“So added student voices can only help in very big ways, I think,” Riley said.

Under the new law, the governor will appoint new student board members based on the recommendations of student government associations at each university campus.

UMaine sophomore Keegan Tripp said many students don’t feel that board members are accessible, and he hopes the new law will spur more communication.

“To at least be, not just heard when they have an issue, but to be consulted as well, when other things are being passed. Budgets. Tuition increases. Programs, etc. Cuts, right? Things that students feel directly, and the board kind of makes decisions at the top,” Tripp said.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.