Educating college trustees

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It is almost impossible for those who live outside the academy to understand and appreciate how American colleges and universities govern themselves.

Basically, college governance has three partners - the faculty, the administration, and the trustees. It's commonly thought to be a kind of "three-leg" stool with each leg required to be strong enough to support the other. There is a kind of healthy tension that exists among the governing parties. Historically, the trustees are cardinals among the bishops given their duties as fiscal stewards, their legal responsibilities to the institution, and the requirement that they hire, evaluate, and replace the president.

Among the three, many presidents have the greatest respect for faculty leadership, especially if faculty understand their role to govern, nurture, and protect the "core business" - the academic program. Faculty governance is weakest when it tries to do too little or too much.

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