Room and board
The Board of Visitors is making progress toward governance reform, but more remains to be done
When the Board of Visitors convened Friday it demonstrated the efficiency it so often preaches in a session of committee meetings. Along with announcing that Patrick D. Hogan would become the executive vice president and chief operating officer and holding a subsequent press conference, the Board proceeded to suggest a series of changes to improve its governance structure. The basis for these alterations stems directly from a series of complaints the Board has heard since the summer, and its willingness to take these procedural steps gives hope that improvements are possible.
In the session of its Governance and Engagement committee, Board members proposed constructive pieces of legislation that went on to pass unanimously. George Martin, the Board’s vice rector and chair of the Governance and Engagement Committee, introduced an amendment that would increase the number of members required to reach quorum in Executive Committee. Previously, only two members of the Executive Committee were needed for it to meet; last summer, the resignation of University President Teresa Sullivan was accepted by only three members. With Martin’s proposal, four of the six members of the Executive Committee would have to gather for it to vote.
Next on the agenda, the Governance and Engagement Committee — without any opposition — accepted an amendment enabling Sullivan to select a faculty member for every Board committee. Although this is a far cry from the voting faculty member on the Board that some parties, including the Faculty Senate, have called for, giving faculty a seat at committee tables will provide a forum for academic perspectives. What’s more, this development will better allow Sullivan to act as a liaison between the Board and the faculty.
One of the closing gestures of the Governance and Engagement Committee was to accept a proposal addressing the procedure for changing the University president. Board member Timothy Robertson asked that the Board meet in full before accepting a University president’s resignation or asking a president to step down. More than the other amendments, this reform directly engages with the criticism the Board faced in the summer: that it did not meet in accordance with guidelines about how to remove a president. Robertson’s amendment would not only update the previous policy, but also clarify omissions in Board procedures In a September letter to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation agency, the Board maintained that its manual did not provide protocol on how to ask its president to resign. This new policy establishes such a protocol.
That these amendments passed in quick succession, and unanimously, could be evidence of the Board’s newfound commitment to improving its governance. It could also be a publicity stunt to improve its reputation while the University waits for SACS to review its accreditation status this year. Until these amendments passed in Committee are approved by the Board, it would be preemptive to solidify our enthusiasm about the new measures. Yet, in the meantime, we appreciate the Board’s willingness to improve its practices as both correctives for the future and in admittance of past wrongdoings.