On My Agenda: Trusteeship and Inclusion

By Henry Stoever    //    Volume 29,  Number 3   //    May/June 2021
Blog Post

Over the past year, my regular communications with you have included these two themes: boards need to be strategic assets for the colleges, universities, systems, and foundations that they serve, and board members need to make it a priority that their campuses foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for all members of their communities. These themes have been at the core of AGB’s thought leadership throughout this year and will be going forward.

In this regard, I am pleased to inform you about two new resources that offer our best advice on these matters that have grown out of AGB’s passion over our 100 years of service to higher education governing boards. They are the Principles of Trusteeship: How to Become an Effective Board Member for Colleges, Universities, and Foundations (Principles of Trusteeship), and the AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion and Guidance for Implementation. We particularly hope that these resources will help you focus on ensuring that institutional practices and policies, including those of the board, afford everyone on your campus the opportunity to be treated with dignity and respect.

The Principles of Trusteeship serves as a guide for individual board members as they navigate changes facing their organizations as well as higher education more broadly. This publication details nine key principles grouped under three fundamental board member functions:

  • Understanding governance by embracing your responsibilities in a structure of shared leadership;
  • Leading by example by upholding the highest standards of integrity; and
  • Thinking strategically by focusing on what matters most to the long-term success of the whole enterprise.

The principles within these categories identify the values and behaviors that are essential to being an effective board member. To access the details within this new resource, please visit AGB.org/Principles.

The AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion and Guidance for Implementation is a critical part of AGB’s Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative, which AGB developed to address issues of race and equity in higher education. To support boards as they examine their organization’s relationships with students, faculty, staff, and others from groups that may have been historically marginalized, this statement provides tools that we hope will help board members approach governance with an equity lens. Recognizing that boards have responsibilities beyond ensuring the financial viability of their colleges, universities, systems, and foundations, this new resource outlines suggested implementation strategies designed to overcome potential barriers that may prevent the crucial sense of belonging necessary for success in the 21st century. To access the details within this new resource, please visit AGB.org/JEIstatement.

I hope you will take the time to review both documents and then ask these questions:

  • After considering the nine principles of trusteeship, where have you excelled? Where do you see opportunities for improvement?
  • After reviewing the board statement on justice, equity, and inclusion, how would you rate your approach at your institution or foundation to improve student success, elevate faculty and staff performance, and develop a community with a sense of belonging?
  • How might you elevate the conversation around justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion with your fellow board members? How can your board develop an equity framework?

This issue of Trusteeship includes two articles that directly deal with the principles of trusteeship that were identified in the larger book just published. The last issue of Trusteeship (March/April) included an article about racial tension between presidents and governing boards, which aligns with our JE&I statement. We will continue to develop additional resources and opportunities for you to exchange ideas with your peers.

Thank you for your service to students and higher education.

Henry Stoever, AGB President and Chief Executive Officer

Related Resources

Principles of Trusteeship: How to Become a Highly Effective Board Member for Colleges, Universities, and Foundations 

AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion and Guidance for Implementation