Members of the Ohio University Board of Trustees’ Governance Committee agreed to forward to the full board today a resolution that would allow two non-voting faculty representatives to participate on board committees. They also made substantive changes to a proposed statement of expectations for the board.
The action on faculty representation came after Faculty Senate Vice Chair Dave Thomas presented summary findings about institutions with and without faculty board members. Thomas, Board Secretary Tom Davis, Chief of Staff Becky Watts, and Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl assisted with the research.
The report explored pros and cons of having faculty representatives on the board vs. building relations outside of board activities. Overall, they both proved workable models, but institutions with faculty participation on their boards relayed more pros than did schools without participation. Institutions with faculty representation said it improved communication, reduced misunderstandings and built academic awareness among board members. In addition, faculty gained better “university perspective”; one president praised the “all-one-university” feeling that the arrangement engendered.
Noting that in Ohio, establishing faculty board positions would require a change in statute, Thomas advocated for non-voting faculty representative status.
The Governance Committee discussed the possible models, ultimately calling for a resolution that extends ex-officio, non-voting board-committee representation to two Faculty Senate members. If approved, the resolution would invite the senate’s Finance and Facilities Committee chair to serve on the board’s Resources Committee and the senate’s University Curriculum Council chair to serve on the Academics Committee. Board terms likely would be equal in length to senate terms. The faculty members would not participate on the full board.
Several Governance Committee members voiced support for the resolution, welcoming the prospect of faculty on their committees.
The idea of faculty participation first arose when Faculty Senate passed a resolution in 2006. At the time, board Chair C. Daniel DeLawder and President Roderick J. McDavis asked for more information to help guide their thinking on the topic, including research into the practices of other institutions and peers.
Thomas and Watts said contacts at other institutions stressed that success is enhanced by the participation of faculty representatives who exhibit diplomacy and prudence. The report also pointed out the value of creating more opportunities for faculty-board interaction throughout the year, regardless of whether faculty assume a formal role on the board.
Updated board expectations
Also on Thursday, committee members fine-tuned, line by line, a second draft Statement of Expectations for board members presented during at the last committee meeting. The statement is intended to improve communication flow and foster collegial relationships among board members and between the board and the university community.
Committee Chair Ned Dewire relayed feedback from board members, students, faculty and the media, noting language that some were interpreting as restricting free expression. For instance, members agreed to strike the statement “the board must speak with a single voice” and add specific language supporting free speech.
Sensitive to the concerns, General Counsel John Biancamano and committee members stressed that none of the language was intended to prevent board members from expressing dissent, engaging in debate or responding to questions about their points of view. Dewire allowed time for the committee to reach consensus on new wording for the sections called into question and welcomed suggestions from others present in the room.
The draft was developed by Biancamano, who reviewed other institutions’ best practices. Once revised, the statement will get another committee review before going up for board approval, likely at the April meeting.