Senate Bill 366 is sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley.
One component of the bill would bring the districts for the trustees into the 21st century.
“The districts go from nine trustees by district to seven trustees by district, and this would allow for two more at- large spots,” Whatley said.
Currently, the districts for Auburn trustees adhere to the congressional districts of 1961. The bill would align the trustee districts more closely with the seven current congressional districts.
In addition to changing two district trustee positions into at-large positions, another trustee would also be added: the immediate past president of the Auburn Alumni Association, “to give the trustees an Auburn alumni flavor too,” Whatley said.
A final provision of the bill would be to stagger trustees’ terms, eliminating a repeat of the recent situation where nine trustee spots became open at the same time.
“The last thing you want to do through that process is cause the University to perhaps lose accreditation because of a nonfunctioning board,” said President Pro Tempore of the Senate Del Marsh. “So we think one of the strongest components in the new legislation is a staggered board.”
Current trustees’ terms would be realigned to match the new standard, with terms beginning and ending in June.
“No one selection committee and no one governor will be appointing the entire Board of Trustees at Auburn,” Whatley said. “You’ll avoid the ability of one governor or one trustee selection committee hijacking the selection process and putting infinite candidates on the board and controlling the fate of Auburn for decades to come.”
Marsh said he applauds Whatley’s work with Senate Bill 366, but not everyone is on board with what the bill would accomplish.
“If the bill that passed the Senate passes the House intact, I will urge Auburn voters statewide to vote against the adoption of the constitutional amendment,” said Andrew Hornsby, previous Auburn Alumni Association president.
Hornsby said he and other alumni believe the bill has undertones that would have a negative affect on the board.
While Hornsby said the alumni have pushed for more at-large positions on the board, that stipulation has not been worded well.
“We would like to see three of the five positions reserved for out-of-state alums,” Hornsby said.
Currently, two out of the three at-large trustee seats are held by individuals from Birmingham.
Hornsby said an additional concern was a line in the bill that would allow trustee John Blackwell to serve more than two additional years, even though he will reach the age cutoff.
Hornsby also expressed concern at the limit placed on how many years trustees can serve: 20 total, up from the current 15.
“We have wonderful Auburn people around the nation that need the opportunity to serve on this board,” Hornsby said. “We don’t need … any people sitting in a seat for 20 years.”
The bill has passed the Senate and is currently in the Ways and Means Education Committee in the House.
Todd Stacy, communications director for Speaker Mike Hubbard, said Hubbard also has concerns with the bill, and there will likely be changes before the bill comes out of the House.