One of the most important fiduciary responsibilities of governing boards is selecting, supporting, and assessing a president to lead the institution or system. Lately, presidential searches have faced heightened scrutiny, stemming from the perception of undue external influences and transparency issues with key constituent groups, among other concerns. The board and other stakeholders entrust the president to advance the institution’s reputation and shape its future. The choice of leader affects nearly every facet of a college or university, so it is essential for boards to have effective and clear policies and procedures throughout the search process to ensure a successful outcome. A poor search process could mire a president in controversy before he or she even begins.
While boards have the authority and responsibility to select a chief executive, all stakeholders are affected by the result. While search committees will often include board members who represent the diverse perspectives and interests of the institution or system, the board may also consider involving other stakeholders with a vested interest in selecting an effective president, including faculty, alumni, student government leaders, or others, based on the needs of the institution. However the board chooses to compose the search committee, they must remember that conflicts of interest can undermine the integrity of the search process. Boards are more likely to select an effective leader, and garner community support, if they have clear and transparent policies and processes that are aligned with best practices.
For more information about presidential searches and best practices for boards, refer to the following publications:
- A Complete Guide to Presidential Search for Universities and Colleges
- Higher Education Governing Boards
- AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Conflict of Interest with Guidelines on Compelling Benefit