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Public Policy Student Joins UMass Board of Trustees

Jacob Binnall, a graduate student at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy, has been sworn in by Governor Charlie Baker to serve on the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, as student trustee for the Amherst campus.

Binnall is in SPP’s 4+1 Master of Public Policy program. A first-generation college student, he received his bachelor’s in political science and legal studies in May. As an undergraduate, he served in the Student Government Association, as a senator, chair of the finance committee, and secretary of the registry. He decided to run for student trustee, he said, because it offered him an opportunity to continue his involvement in UMass governance and student advocacy, this time on the system level. “There are so many important things that get decided by the Board of Trustees, that impact so many aspects of our daily student lives,” he said. 

Massachusetts was one of the first states to include students on its higher education board, Binnall noted. “I’ve always been interested in how revolutionary  that piece of Massachusetts policy on higher education is and how influential students can be on that board and how many different interests can be represented.”

As a trustee, Binnall will represent the voices and advocate for the interests of students on the Amherst campus. He will also serve on two board committees: student affairs and administration and finance. His priorities include bolstering support for first-generation college students and looking at ways to improve digital learning in the UMass system. In addition, he’ll advocate for student organizations—something that was also important to him during his time in the Student Government Association. “There’s a lot of student power in these organizations,” he said. “A lot of what makes UMass UMass is the opportunity for students to develop as leaders in these groups.”

Binnall is also part of the “Fight for Five” movement to give student trustees more of a voice on the board. Right now, under state law, only two of the five student members have voting rights; that’s because when the student seats were created, there were only two UMass campuses, in Amherst and Boston. While there are now five campuses in the system, the law has never been changed to grant all five student members votes. Instead, the voting seats rotate each year, with UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School holding them this year. Earlier this summer, Binnall and other students testified before a hearing of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Higher Education in support of H.1222, a bill that would expand voting rights to all five student trustees. 

Binnall is spending the summer in Boston as a municipal collaboration intern at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. There he’s working on a project for Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell to address the disparity between the racial makeup of the city’s public safety workforce and the racial makeup of its residents. Binnall is helping identify cities whose public safety employees are more reflective of residents and putting together recommendations of best practices that Boston might adopt. He’s also working on a project to create a model for smaller municipalities to pool resources to create shared sustainability offices. 

After receiving his Master of Public Policy next year, Binnall is considering a career in municipal planning or government affairs. 

Photo: UMass President Marty Meehan, state Representative Mindy Domb of Amherst, student trustee Jake Binnall, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at the swearing-in ceremony for new trustees.

– Maureen Turner, communications manager, UMass Amherst School of Public Policy

About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy prepares students to solve problems for the common good and become leaders in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.

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