More effective and engaged boards are essential for improving our universities and colleges. At AGB, we are on the frontline of working with all players in higher education to bring about this needed change. We believe shared governance effectuates tangible, lasting improvement. A recent statement from a group sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is off the mark by advocating greater, unilateral trustee action as the solution to our national priority of strengthening American higher education.
AGB’s experience in working with over 1,300 institutions and 40,000 trustees leads us to differ with the ACTA agenda in several quite fundamental respects, particularly in the distinction between engaged and effective boards and unilateral board activism. At AGB, we believe that board empowerment is best achieved through collaboration, not at the expense of the president’s responsibility to lead the institution or the faculty’s role to guide academic policy.
There is much work to be done to improve governance in higher education, with that we agree. But we do not agree that trustees should arbitrarily ignore the judgments of the professionals who do the work of teaching and research. The system of shared governance needs to be improved, not dismantled.