The below is excerpted from the introduction; download the full statement.
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has long recognized that governing boards are accountable to the mission and heritage of their institutions, with the fiduciary responsibility to promote institutional integrity and quality while advancing their institutional missions. Accordingly, AGB lists among a board’s basic responsibilities that of “Remain[ing] informed about institutional issues and the challenges confronting higher education.”
These issues and challenges span a staggeringly broad scope. While boards have increasingly full agendas and, as effective leaders, cannot immerse themselves in the trenches of institutions’ day-to-day operations, they must ensure that they are asking the right questions in order to exercise appropriate and effective oversight. Fulfilling this responsibility requires regular review of institutional policies and practices related to issues that affect the institution’s mission, culture, and reputation.
One issue that has received high-profile attention in recent years is that of sexual assault. Although most institutions have devoted significant time and energy to addressing sexual assault following the U.S. Department of Education’s April 4, 2011, guidance on the issue, the number of institutions facing criticism over the manner in which they have responded to sexual misconduct allegations has increased steadily since that time. Colleges and universities are defending against lawsuits, federal investigations, and negative publicity arising from their response to sexual violence on campus. As they do with other issues related to campus culture, governing boards have a duty to become and remain informed about sexual misconduct affecting their campuses and to satisfy themselves that administrators are addressing the issue in a way that protects their institutions against potential adverse financial and reputational consequences.
The purpose of this advisory statement is to provide governing boards with guidance regarding their fiduciary duty and overall responsibility to collaborate with institutional leadership to address issues related to sexual misconduct.