By Casey S. Elliott
The desire to provide a regular flow of communications between Ohio University faculty and the Board of Trustees was among several topics discussed at a board Governance Committee meeting Thursday in Columbus.
The committee also addressed a draft statement of expectations for trustees, board self-evaluation practices, succession planning for future board committees and the trustees' annual retreat.
Faculty Senate approved a resolution in 2006 seeking appointment of a nonvoting faculty member to the board. At that time, Chair C. Daniel DeLawder and President Roderick J. McDavis asked for more information to help guide thinking on the topic.
A survey presented at the committee's October meeting included the other 12 public universities in Ohio and nine aspirational peer institutions. Of the Ohio universities, two have non-voting faculty representatives and four peer institutions have faculty trustees, two with voting rights. Other schools with faculty representatives also were included in the survey.
Following up on a request by the Governance Committee after that information -- gathered by Faculty Senate Vice Chair David Thomas, Chief of Staff Rebecca Watts, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl and board Secretary Tom Davis -- was presented, Thomas sought data on what schools without faculty representatives do to ensure strong communications.
At Thursday's meeting, Thomas said he contacted individuals at Miami, Bowling Green State and Kent State universities. Administrators and faculty representatives there said they believed communications could be improved with the addition of a trustee to their boards.
Thomas said those institutions' boards had considered adding a faculty representative, and "one faculty representative said if they had better communication, they would not have begun their collective bargaining discussion." The Ohio University Faculty Senate voted in October to conduct a card drive to determine if faculty members support an election on unionization.
Some of the schools, Thomas said, hold informal quarterly gatherings for trustees and faculty or annual luncheons to facilitate communications. The Ohio University board's practice of visiting colleges and schools while on campus for meetings appears to be unique, he said.
Governance Committee Chair Ned Dewire asked for more information regarding how faculty trustees are selected at other universities. That information is expected to be presented at the board's January meeting.
Dewire also asked Thomas and Faculty Senate President Sergio Lopez-Permouth, who also attended Thursday's meeting, to have recommendations ready by January for improving communications between faculty and trustees if the board chooses not to appoint a faculty trustee.
Dewire also raised the question of whether faculty trustees would sit in on executive sessions, as current non-voting board members do. In addition to its nine voting members, the board has five non-voting members: two national trustees, two student trustees and an alumni representative.
Thomas said faculty representatives at other schools he spoke with did not sit in on executive sessions because of potential conflicts of interest. But Dewire said it would be unfair to exclude faculty trustees because non-voting members are allowed to sit in under the board's current practice. That practice might have to be reexamined, he said.
On another matter, committee members discussed how best to structure the board's one-day retreat to cover orientation for new trustees, governance issues and strategic goals.
Delawder prompted both the succession planning and statement of expectations discussions after he issued a memo outlining his thoughts on expectations.
General Counsel John Biancamano drafted a set of expectations for the board, based on other Ohio institutions' practices. The committee reviewed these Thursday and made suggestions for a second draft, which will be brought forward in January.
The committee also looked at developing proposed principles and procedures for nominating future board chairs and vice chairs. One possibility would be to conduct an annual survey of board members interested in serving as chair or vice chair, which would have to be by April every year. The Governance Committee would make its recommendations for the positions by June of each year.
Other principles include ensuring that all trustees serve on both the Academics Committee and Resources Committee at some point during their terms.