The WSJ recently printed an article by a college history professor, advising new university/college trustees on how best to approach and manage their new positions. Allen Guelzo’s advice is basic, but even so is unlikely to be found in any orientation literature for new trustees.
I would add a few additions. For one, college/university trustees need to be fully-apprised of the skewed nature that university faculties have come to be: ninety percent of faculty self-identify as “liberal;” only ten percent, as “conservative.” While that may seem no big deal to the casual observer, it is. The university is supposed to be an apolitical organization – in fact, universities receive tax breaks and other allowances based on the premise that they are not proselytizing political opinions or setting out political stances. However, with such a vast majority of faculty now of one political persuasion as opposed to the other (only a few years ago – the mix was closer to 50/50), and with faculty who hold tenure able to say and do just about anything they would like, it stands to reason that political bias is creeping into courses of study that are supposed to be assisting students to look at both sides of an issue (or, an unbiased view of an issue) in order to make their own decisions about the “rightness and wrongness” of various perspectives. I would also advise trustees to delve into the make-up of classes at the college/university where they sit on the board and become familiar with what is actually offered, take some effort to determine what courses are offered that are “meritorious” and which courses are merely fluff that serve to continue to employee certain, otherwise unemployable faculty. (University faculty, themselves, manage the coursework – the university administrators rarely have the courage to step in and disband courses, and, therefore, faculty.) And, thirdly, I would strongly advise new trustees to start to look carefully at the amount of money that is being spent on faculty and their coursework, in an effort to determine where there are overlaps and where savings could be acquired. In other words, this is actually the job of the trusters – it’s just been a long time since members of the board actually did anything other than rubber-stamp the proposals brought to them by administrators (which have, for the most part, been brought to them by the faculty – you can see how this works.) Few trustees today have the courage to carry the tasks of their trusteeships out with effectiveness. But, at the moment, universities/colleges are at a critical make or break crossroads – and unless the trustees step up and do the jobs for which they have been selected, there is little hope that change will come in time to salvage many of the institutions, So, I’d say that it’s time to trust the trustees to do the right thing.
TRUSTING TRUSTEES : liberal conservative