The following essay was co-authored with PRG senior associate Laurie Fenlason, who is also the founder and principal of L. Fenlason Consulting. It is the companion to an essay that appeared in Inside Higher Ed on “Getting the President-Board Relationship Right.”
College and university governing boards have rarely faced the public spotlight as frequently and glaringly as they do today. The headwinds facing higher ed — enrollment pressures, challenges to the financial model, accelerated leadership turnover and political incursions on institutional mission, to name just a few — lie at the heart of a board’s duty of care for an institution.
Campus discourse about these matters is increasingly fractious, resulting in governance disputes playing out in social media and the public square. Campuses also face enormous pressure to respond to pressing societal needs, many of which lie beyond their institutional mission, of which trustees are the ultimate stewards. As we have seen on multiple campuses over the last several years, boards that are not sufficiently connected to the university’s history, mission and culture can work at odds with institutional leadership and, in extreme cases, tip challenges into full-blown crises. Continue reading