If a university’s board is unhappy with the way financial aid decisions are made, what’s the best way to address the situation?
A trustee with building expertise begins meeting with the campus facilities director and soon is directing a new project. Is this a problem?
A quorum of board members is traveling to a meeting by van and casually begins discussing business. Is this a violation of open meetings laws?
These are just some of the issues that were discussed at the inaugural training for newly appointed postsecondary trustees and regents held Wednesday, December 1, at the Council on Postsecondary Education in Frankfort. A total of 35 board members attended the event.
The training was the result of legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2016, which requires new board members of the Council on Postsecondary Education, the public universities, and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) to complete six hours of orientation and training within one year of their appointment. Members who do not complete the requirement will not be eligible to serve a second term.
Kentucky is one of six of states that have implemented training requirements for college and university boards, and similar bills were introduced last year in Alabama and Massachusetts. Nine other states offer board education on a volunteer basis. The trend appears to be accelerating as headlines about sexual assault, improper spending and other scandals at prominent universities like Penn State and the University of Tennessee have shaken the public’s trust in higher education leadership.
When speaking to Inside Higher Education in July of last year, Merrill Schwartz, vice president of the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), stressed the need for more effective board education. “In most sectors board of directors include many industry experts, and in higher education that's not true,” Schwartz said. “It's a lot to ask of [lay] members to understand the industry, and trustee education really is a leg up.”
The Council on Postsecondary Education enlisted the help of AGB, a national expert in higher education governance, to deliver part the program. Rich Novak and Carol Cartwright, veteran AGB consultants, discussed the characteristics of high-performing boards and their responsibilities as fiduciaries of the institutions and the public they serve.
CPE President Bob King and other members of his staff delivered the rest of the training, which focused on the role of the CPE, the statewide strategic agenda, tuition setting, performance funding, and open records and open meetings laws. When developing the program, the Council was guided by the legislation, which specified the topics to be addressed.
“While each institution provides campus-specific training for their board members, this new offering is focused more broadly on the roles and responsibilities of trustees and regents, and how these relate to the state’s strategic agenda,” said King. “These efforts complement each other and will give board members a better understanding of the complexity of higher education institutions, which manage million or even billion dollar budgets and activities as diverse as academics, athletics, and research.”
Following the training, the new board members, joined by various university presidents and board chairs, attended a reception at the Governor’s mansion and heard from Governor Matt Bevin, who appointed them. Governor Bevin encouraged them to think big about strategies to improve Kentucky’s economy and workforce.
An online version of the training will be made available by the Council on Postsecondary Education in early 2017 to accommodate board members who were unable to attend in person.