How to construct a strong board of trustees
- A 2016 survey conducted by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) shows that more than 80% of private schools and 54% of public colleges and universities have mandated orientation for newly appointed members to boards of trustees, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education. This, according to officials, is just one of several key steps in building relationships and knowledge of higher education as the process of making a strong board of trustees.
- Having regular meetings between executive board meetings, allowing trustees an opportunity to interact with students and faculty, and setting clear expectations are just some of the strategies that can help to encourage good board relations and engagement.
- "The more trustees know and engage, the more vested they are," Blake Thompson, board secretary at Ohio State University, told the Chronicle.
It would seem that stronger board relations would be a critical aspect of leadership, as collegiality among trustees helps to breed the trust needed to select presidents, oversee budgets, manage crises and maintain ethics. But as we've seen at institutions like the University of Louisville and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, building that collegiality can be difficult — particularly on the subject of keeping or firing presidents.
Almost every institution can afford to create more opportunities for trustees to meet, but can every institution, particularly small schools, afford to fly-in and house trustees for these meetings? Moreover, the consultation that is required for boards to understand higher education trends and threats is another cost that schools would have to absorb in the effort to build stronger board relationships and understanding.
Using video conferencing services and other digital meeting tools could provide an opportunity for leaders to convene more often without the institution absorbing travel costs. For larger institutions, implications about travel and training could create unwanted media coverage of campus spending. But for campuses which can promote the benefits of strong board relations, they could also present media opportunities to show the school's prioritization of sound leadership and governance. Universally, campuses which can expose trustees to campus culture and traditions and tie the value of decisions to the long-term health of the university and surrounding community, have a great chance of building trustees and committees which put the needs of the campus first.