Bolstering the Board: Trustees Are Academia’s Best Hope for Reform

From the Executive Summary of Bolstering the Board: Trustees Are Academia’s Best Hope for Reform:

Two conditions are needed to effect large-scale reforms in academia: a hierarchical, top- down system of governance that can enact sweeping changes, and for that system to be controlled or heavily influenced by those outside the system. Strong board governance provides both of those conditions. Most university boards, especially the public ones, were created by charters or statutes that placed the board fully in charge, and, remarkably, the boards legally retain much of their power. And yet, because of a variety of pressures and distortion, most boards have relinquished their rightful positions atop college and university governance.

This report is intended to operate on two levels. One is to make the case for stronger board control. Such a hierarchical system, rather than the distributed shared governance system that exists now, is necessary to effect large-scale reform. Shared governance is a sacred cow that needs to be gored.

The report also works on a more immediate, pragmatic level, providing many solutions that can be implemented individually to begin the process of reforming governance. In most situations, boards still have extensive legal authority. They merely need to exercise their existing authority to put the brakes on many of academia’s excesses.