BOV reforms voting rules in response to transparency concerns
Amendments require full Board meeting for a president’s dismissal, resignation
In an effort to address concerns about a lack of transparency that arose during the forced resignation of University President Teresa Sullivan, the Board of Visitors amended its voting procedures and committee structures in a Friday meeting. But critics say these new policies will create little substantive change.
The committee passed a resolution proposed by Board Member Timothy Robertson that requires a full Board meeting in the event of a resignation or removal of a University president. It passed unanimously.
Governance and Engagement Committee Chair George Martin also proposed an amendment mandating a super majority — four out of six members — for votes on Executive Committee actions. The proposal passed unopposed.
Yet the controversy this summer was not simply a result of the Board’s voting procedures, critics contend. Those opposed to the Board’s actions during the summer say a lack of transparency and faculty inability to weigh in on certain Board decisions were at the crux of the matter. “It’s still a very opaque body and we need a greater amount of transparency and democracy,” fourth–year College student Claire Wyatt said. Wyatt was among a handful of students protesting Friday’s Board meeting.
In an attempt to address some of these concerns, the Board also passed a motion to allow Sullivan to appoint a faculty member to each Board committee.
Sullivan praised the proposal, saying it was a good way to take advantage of the resources at the University.
“We have a top of the line architecture school, which could help the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and we have two world class business schools in terms of helping the Finance Committee,” Sullivan said. “It is advantageous for more faculty members to know more members of the Board and vice versa.”
But Wyatt said despite the Board’s efforts there were a number of students who still felt concerned about the summer. “The structural issues underlying what led to it are still up in the air and people still have a general distrust,” she said.
The committee decided that it would spend more time looking into outside consultants to try to address these concerns.
The meeting opened with a conference call to Richard Chait, a professor emeritus of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Chait is an expert on university governance and offers consulting services to universities around the country.
“Professor Chait has worked with many boards and university leaders in his career to increase their mutual effectiveness and streamline systems that facilitate mutual effectiveness,” Rector Helen Dragas said. “This initial conversation will generate ideas about how to shape strategies to support President Sullivan and her role as a leader and maximize the value of the talent and the skills of this Board.”