WASHINGTON, DC—Declaring that “we simply can’t afford Enrons in higher education,” trustees from colleges and universities across the nation today launched a new organization, the Institute for Effective Governance, to help boards improve accountability and avoid the lack of oversight that has plagued some corporations.
In a Statement of Purpose, City University of New York trustee Kathleen Pesile, University of California regent Velma Montoya, and trustees and former trustees from 15 other institutions, declared that “perhaps even more than corporate boards, college boards have been guilty of laxity in their oversight functions, allowing presidents and administrators a free hand in making crucial decisions.”
“The problems in higher education are all self-inflicted wounds,” the founding trustees wrote. “They are not likely to be solved by the people who brought us this state of affairs. But they can all be addressed by a new generation of active trustees who have no vested interest in the status quo. Trustees, alone in higher education, explicitly represent the public interest—the interests of the students, parents, and taxpayers.”
“If higher education is to deserve the confidence of the public, it must welcome and not resist accountability, assessment and measures to ensure educational quality. The corporate world has rediscovered the value of ‘independent directors,’” said the trustees. “The Institute for Effective Governance is dedicated to helping active, thoughtful, responsible trustees face the challenges of the post-Enron era of accountability.”
CUNY Trustee Pesile noted that “existing higher education organizations, even those that work primarily with trustees, often resist stronger accountability.” “We wanted to start an organization that will be on our side,” she added, “and help us achieve the best possible education at a price the taxpayers and parents can afford.”
The founding group includes trustees and former trustees from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Hamilton College, Florida Board of Education, Virginia State University, University of California, Old Dominion University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, George Mason University, University of California, University of Northern Colorado, City University of New York, University of Colorado, Gettysburg College and Rowan College.
The non-profit Institute will help trustees increase accountability, assess academic quality, evaluate presidents, and improve board management. Boards can join the Institute for a modest fee and receive many services at no cost. The Institute will receive administrative support from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Both are located in Washington, D.C.