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Old 11-17-2008, 03:28 AM
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What does a "Board of Trustee" member "do"?

I was wondering what (exactly) a Community College Board of Trustee's "job description" is? I am aware they are elected by the community in which the College resides. I also know they go to meetings (not many though) and vote on proposals presented by the College (teachers, admin., et al)/Community. And, I know they all have "day" jobs, but what do they "do" for their money (as a Trustee)? What, except for being elected, gives them the qualifications to perform this job? Any help in clearing up this mystery for me would be greatly appreciated!
Old 11-17-2008, 04:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ccbythec View Post
I was wondering what (exactly) a Community College Board of Trustee's "job description" is? I am aware they are elected by the community in which the College resides. I also know they go to meetings (not many though) and vote on proposals presented by the College (teachers, admin., et al)/Community. And, I know they all have "day" jobs, but what do they "do" for their money (as a Trustee)? What, except for being elected, gives them the qualifications to perform this job? Any help in clearing up this mystery for me would be greatly appreciated!
The qualifications and election process is usually setup by the body that governs the educational institution, so it depends on the school. For example, the trustees for The Ohio State University are appointed by the governor, with senate approval. The state law does not give any specific requirements, other than that two of the trustees must be current students of OSU. As for what they "do" you pretty much described it. The Board acts as a governing body that votes on various proposals, school development, curriculum, financing, etc. Think of them as the school's legislative branch.

Of course, this varies depending on the school, governing body, etc. But I doubt, apart from election/appointment process, it varies too markedly within the US.
Old 11-17-2008, 07:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccbythec View Post
I was wondering what (exactly) a Community College Board of Trustee's "job description" is? I am aware they are elected by the community in which the College resides. I also know they go to meetings (not many though) and vote on proposals presented by the College (teachers, admin., et al)/Community. And, I know they all have "day" jobs, but what do they "do" for their money (as a Trustee)? What, except for being elected, gives them the qualifications to perform this job? Any help in clearing up this mystery for me would be greatly appreciated!
Such a board typically has two purposes: provide a public forum for the administration to discuss and explain the workings and funding of the system and to hire the head administrator. Outside of that, not much. They are somewhat like firemen. You pay them (usually not very much) and hope they never have to do anything. Because when they do start earning their paychecks, it is usually something bad. Like a bad administrator who needs to be replaced. It is much better when they have nothing to do-because it means the system is running well. Of course when they do nothing it doesn't follow that nothing is wrong, but that is the intent.
Old 11-17-2008, 08:26 AM
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As I mentioned earlier. The function of a Board of Trustees within an education institution is not universal. What is true for one school/community/state/nation will not be true for all. Of the three universities I have attended (two in the US state of Ohio, one in Japan), I can attest that the two in Ohio had trustees that were more than firemen called upon to save the university from certain disaster. The Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 3335 enumerates the various duties of the trustees for the Ohio State University, including annual reports on university development, progress, and finances; appointment of professorships, presidents, and set guidelines for courses; supervise university property and investments... I could go on, but, as I said before, YMMV. If you really want to know what they do at YOUR educational institution of choice, I suggest asking one of them.
Old 11-17-2008, 08:51 AM
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The trustees hire and fire the president, for one thing. That's a big one.

They also are guardians of the endowment. If the administration wants to spend endowment money, the trustees need to sign off on it.

They also are involved in giving tenure and approving sabbaticals, but that's pretty much a rubber stamp.

Oh, and trustees (at least in private colleges) do not get paid. To do so would jeopardize the college's non-profit status. It may be different in state institutions, but I doubt it.
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Old 11-17-2008, 06:14 PM
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Generally, Boards of Trustees serve the same function of a corporate Board of Directors (although being larger, their power is even more diffuse). They are nominally in charge, but in reality day to day operations are within the hands of the officers, and even overarching policy is largely set by the officers unless things aren't going well. As noted, the primary power the Board has is hiring and firing the officers, but obviously, that's a pretty important duty.

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Old 11-17-2008, 06:38 PM
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Thanks for answering; I am new to this so I wasn't expecting anybody to have an answer. I have a few more questions if anyone has a moment.

I have gone to a few BOT meetings (right now they have a huge issue on the table), but in order to get a better idea of the usual order of things, I looked at their transcripts of previous meetings. It seems like this Board of Trustees spends quite a bit of time voting on whether or not to bring something to a vote in the next meeting. Often the topics at hand are "the colors of an awning", "advocating the use of public transportation for faculty and students, etc." and deciding whether or not to only buy appliances (for the school) that carry the energy star rating. If these are the details that board of Trustees takes care of, then what is a President (and staff) for? In a nut shell, does the Board of Trustees decide "what to buy" and then send the President (and staff) out to buy it?
If they can hire and fire the President, then wouldn't it be that the "powers"' of the president are simply an extension of this Board, as in, another Board member who is paid a salary and non-elected?
Old 11-17-2008, 06:38 PM
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What RealityChuck said, plus:

Trustees are expected to help out in fundraising, at least at many universities. They're also usually expected to make a donation themselves. Getting 100% of your board members to donate helps your fundraising stats.

Trustees are expected to keep an eye on university finances, at least at the "big-picture" level. The trustees at our university do a pretty good job of this.

Trustees also have to sign off on a lot of other university business too. For example, when one of our colleges was closed down, the trustees had to agree to it. It's not always as much of a rubber-stamp process as Chuck suggests. I've heard that trustees at some institutions have refused to sign off on some things, sometimes because they're peeved at some other perceived slight or for some other bogus reason. That doesn't always bode well for their continued presence on the board.

Lastly, what seadoa said. However, most private universities' boards of trustees have fairly similar job descriptions.
Old 11-17-2008, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Oh, and trustees (at least in private colleges) do not get paid. To do so would jeopardize the college's non-profit status.
Can you explain why this is so? I'm not disputing what you wrote; I just don't understand how that follows.
Old 11-17-2008, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by seodoa View Post
As I mentioned earlier. The function of a Board of Trustees within an education institution is not universal. What is true for one school/community/state/nation will not be true for all. Of the three universities I have attended (two in the US state of Ohio, one in Japan), I can attest that the two in Ohio had trustees that were more than firemen called upon to save the university from certain disaster. The Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 3335 enumerates the various duties of the trustees for the Ohio State University, including annual reports on university development, progress, and finances; appointment of professorships, presidents, and set guidelines for courses; supervise university property and investments... I could go on, but, as I said before, YMMV. If you really want to know what they do at YOUR educational institution of choice, I suggest asking one of them.
Actually, I have tried asking each of them, and the response, for the most part, is a direct quote from their individual campaign packets. None seem to be able to articulate with precision what their duties are (except: To make our little College all that it can be! Set the Educational standard High! Strive for Excellence!) This is proving to be a much harder assignment than I thought- I am looking into "Board of Trustees" (Be it bridge, school, business, etc. but mainly my school's) to analyze through a Marx/Hegelian lens.
Old 11-17-2008, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by brad_d View Post
Can you explain why this is so? I'm not disputing what you wrote; I just don't understand how that follows.
I looked it up and it appears I was slightly off in the legality, but not as a practical matter.

It is legal to pay a nonprofit board. The problem is that the IRS rules are such that you have to jump through hoops in order to pay them. The board cannot determine their own compensation, for instance, so an independent organization has to determine this. Also, it is important that the compensation not be considered excessive, nor that it is more than other similar boards.

That last is the rub. If all other colleges don't pay their board, it'd be hard for you to pay them without it being considered excessive. Since tax exempt status is so important, the college isn't going to mess with it. It also helps the bottom line if no salaries are paid.

You can pay travel expenses, though.
Old 11-17-2008, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
It is legal to pay a nonprofit board. The problem is that the IRS rules are such that you have to jump through hoops in order to pay them.
There's another, more pressing problem for nonprofits. If a board member is paid, that information has to appear on the nonprofit's annual PF-990 form, which is public information. Word that the board members are being paid gets around fast.
Old 11-17-2008, 08:19 PM
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If you are considering being on a board (certainly a board of directors, but I think also a board of trustees), I would find out what kind of malfeasance liability you might have and if they pay for liability insurance. As an extreme example, what happens if someone abscond with funds and there is a claim the board should have been more vigilant.
Old 11-17-2008, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Duke View Post
What RealityChuck said, plus:

Trustees are expected to help out in fundraising, at least at many universities. They're also usually expected to make a donation themselves. Getting 100% of your board members to donate helps your fundraising stats.

Trustees are expected to keep an eye on university finances, at least at the "big-picture" level. The trustees at our university do a pretty good job of this.

Trustees also have to sign off on a lot of other university business too. For example, when one of our colleges was closed down, the trustees had to agree to it. It's not always as much of a rubber-stamp process as Chuck suggests. I've heard that trustees at some institutions have refused to sign off on some things, sometimes because they're peeved at some other perceived slight or for some other bogus reason. That doesn't always bode well for their continued presence on the board.

Lastly, what seadoa said. However, most private universities' boards of trustees have fairly similar job descriptions.
Thank you for this information, actually thanks everyone. I am getting that the "big picture" level is what should be important to a Board of Trustees member, and if there is something akin to an impasse in the budget that threatens the functioning of the school, then there might be a personality issue at hand. (I am only saying this because most third year econ students can draw up a budget given the facts) I am still unsure where the Trustees sit on the scale of Administration vs. Faculty (these two seem to always be at odds and I am not sure why, but that is another question). I am getting that the Board holds the purse strings and can take whatever level of involvement they want in the nuts and bolts of running the school. This is something that they are given power to do because they were elected (in our district) and are accountable to no one until they are up for re-election. It also seems there is a bit of arbitrary decision making and politics involved, as opposed to: This is your job description, this is what is expected of you and these are the consequences if you do not perform these duties adequately (or if you do well for that matter). So, how would one measure the competence of a board member, either for praise or reform?

Last edited by ccbythec; 11-17-2008 at 08:32 PM.
Old 11-18-2008, 12:16 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I looked it up and it appears I was slightly off in the legality, but not as a practical matter.
Thanks a lot for that info - I hadn't known any of that.
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