Friday, May 25, 2018

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Tom Davis

Tom Davis

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Board of Trustees Matters: Tom Davis talks board selection, public private partnership

Tom Davis is a busy man. In addition to his position as a professor in the Patton College of Education and Human Services, Davis serves as secretary to the Board of Trustees. As part of Ohio University Compass’ ongoing “Matters” series, he sat down with us to answer question about the basics of the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees is an important guiding group on campus. How are they selected?

Tom Davis: The governor appoints the board members to nine-year terms, so it is a significant amount of time and commitment on the part of the appointees. There are nine voting members. In addition, the governor appoints two students trustees who serve two year, staggered terms.

Five out of nine Trustees are required to be Ohio University graduates.

In addition to the governor appointees, two national trustees are selected by the Board members to serve. They participate in all board meetings and activities as nonvoting members. They are typically alumni of Ohio University.

Dating back to the 1950s, the Board has invited a representative from the Ohio University Alumni Association to participate in all Board activities as a nonvoting member. Two years ago we added two faculty representatives to sit on the University Resource and University Academic committee.

So, there are quite a few people who participate on the Board of Trustees, but, fortunately, everybody has a very good idea of their duties. It runs very well.

How do the Board of Trustees’ decisions affect the University?

The University isn’t to be managed by the Board. The responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to oversee the work of the president and hold him accountable for his work with the University.

They create the broad strokes that guide the administration in running the University. For instance, the nuances of Vision OHIO are brought up and explained to the board. Overarching strategic planning is an important part of the responsibility of the Board of Trustees. They have been very closely involved in the evolution of Vision OHIO, and the six strategic priorities that have been used as our institutional compass over the past few years.
The board members are not rubber stampers. They do their due diligence and ask the important questions that need to be asked before making decisions.

Board meetings cover a huge range of issues in one or two days. How do members prepare for them?

We follow the sunshine laws for the state of Ohio, and, as such, the board can’t meet without public notice.

To help them prepare, we send each member hard copies of the agenda and information about the points to be discussed two weeks prior to the meeting. This gives them ample time to read the materials and come up with pretty specific questions.

Board members will occasionally meet as members of other University committees, but the Board will never meet, or make a decision without public notice.

The idea of a public private partnership on the residence halls has been a frequent topic of discussion at board meetings. What can you tell me about that issue?

The board members have been researching and seeking advice relative to issues of debt capacity for the University. Understanding and balancing the need for infrastructure upgrades and future capital projects against legacy debt is always an important consideration.
Addressing deferred maintenance of the campus is an important responsibility to assure a quality educational experience for our students and as a result, they want to be certain that they have accurate and comprehensive information before making a decision on housing or any other deferred maintenance issue.

The Trustees will be tracking the progress of the environmental scan process being led by the executive vice president and provost to see if any issues and information come out of that work that may help the board make decisions about moving forward on deferred maintenance.

They are also being mindful that there are other buildings, beyond residence halls, that need maintenance. They are trying to see the big picture because this is a decision that will affect the University for decades to come.

Board members work on a volunteer basis. How does that affect their work with the University?

I have been struck by the real, genuine commitment the members of the Board of Trustees have shown to the University. There are five alumni who sit on the board, but if you didn’t know who they were, you’d have a hard time picking them out. Those who had no previous affiliation with the University are just as dedicated and committed as those who have an OHIO degree.

Their hard work, and their genuine dedication to Ohio University and the state of Ohio has made an impact on me, and I value that.