Dan Geelan, President of Montana Associated Students (MAS), was preparing to round up nominations for a new student regent to serve on the Montana University System’s Board of Regents when he discovered that such efforts would probably not be necessary. At a retirement dinner for former Montana Commissioner for Education Richard Crofts on Jan. 12, Geelan was approached by Steve Snezek, chief educational advisor for the governor. Snezek informed Geelan that Gov. Martz was extending the term of current Student Regent Christian Hur for another year. Hur is a former Marine and former student at MSU-Billings, and currently attends law school at UM. While Geelan believes that Hur is doing what he feels is best for Montana students, he was nonetheless upset with Martz’ decision.
“I think the reappointment is illegal,” Geelan said. “I don’t think it follows the letter of the law, plain and simple.”
Geelan refers to Montana Code 2-15-1508, Section (3)(b), which reads, in part, “The Governor shall appoint the student…based upon the nomination provided by student organization designated by the Board of Regents.”
That designated organization is MAS, and Geelan feels that his group, which represents all of Montana’s 32,000 students enrolled in public colleges and universities, should have been consulted before any reappointment was made.
Chuck Butler, communications director for Martz, points to a different section of the same code. Section (3)(a) reads, in part, “the length of term by the student member is determined by the governor and must be for not less than one year and not more than four years.” This clause, Butler says, shows that Martz is well within her right to reappoint Regent Hur for another year, or even another two years, if she wanted to.
Part of the conflict stems from concern over Hur’s performance. “There had been a distinct disconnect between MAS and the student regent,” Geelan says. “We’ve had philosophical differences.” Said differences include Hur’s advancement of proposals without MAS endorsement, according to Geelan. One such proposal dealt with compensation of university employees—MAS felt that the compensation proposal should bcover all university employees, but Hur decided to stick to the original wording, which applied only to executive administrators.
Still, Geelan insists that the argument isn’t primarily about political differences between MAS and Hur.
“This is just students standing up for our rights,” he says. “We’d like the 32,000 other students to be included in this to afford them the opportunity to apply for this great education opportunity” of serving as student regent.
Martz understands that desire, according to Butler, but feels that with the high level of turnover on the Board of Regents recently, students will be better served by a regent who already knows the terrain.
MAS has called for Hur to decline his reappointment. At press time, Hur has neither accepted nor declined.