New AGB Guidance and Toolkit Address Internal and External Influence on Board Decision-Making

By AGB December 8, 2023 Press Releases
Press Release

For Immediate Release
CONTACT:
Morgan Alexander
media@AGB.org
202-776-0853

The AGB Board of Directors approved a new resource that assists higher education governing boards in navigating how to welcome a broad range of constituent perspectives while adhering to the best interests of their colleges, universities, and related foundations.

WASHINGTON, DC (December 8, 2023)—Today, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) published the AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Influences Impacting Governing Board Independence and Leadership, with an associated toolkit. The statement and toolkit offer core principles, leading practices, templates, and more to help a college, university, or related foundation governing board enhance its capacity to address the role of constituent influence. AGB is the premier organization advocating strategic board governance in higher education.

In an era of intense scrutiny, knowing how governing boards can balance the needs of myriad stakeholders is critical. Constituencies such as students, faculty, donors, labor groups, alumni, lawmakers, companies, and community leaders have specific and sometimes contrary desires and expectations. In some instances, these constituencies attempt to influence board members to make decisions at odds with the institution’s mission, values, and strategic priorities.

“The issue of appropriate influence has existed as long as there have been colleges to lead, but it’s especially relevant now,” said Mary Papazian, PhD, AGB executive vice president. “Higher education is in an era of change, and there are many perspectives on what that change should look like. As leaders and fiduciaries, board members should take steps to understand how to balance those perspectives while adhering to their responsibilities. This statement is purpose-built to help governing boards get that approach right.”

The statement is divided into context, guidance and recommendations, and a series of appendices with practical resources. The context provides background on the importance of academic freedom and the role that governing boards play in protecting it. The statement highlights how fulfilling fiduciary responsibilities—a legal requirement for governing board members—compels boards to weigh the perspectives of all stakeholders while ensuring that they make their decisions with the best interests of their institutions in mind.

The recommendations reaffirm a tested set of principles that AGB established in 2012 related to external influence, and then go further by providing five suggestions for putting those principles into practice. This guidance positions the board to find shared understanding, structure the board’s decision-making and institutional policies to reinforce the board’s authority, and address influences that interfere with the board’s independence.

The appendices, as well as the associated toolkit, equip boards to implement the statement’s recommendations and enact leading practices. In particular, one appendix includes examples of common sources of tension alongside suggested approaches to address them.

“Governing boards need more than reports and overviews,” said Beverly Seay, chair of the AGB Board of Directors and trustee emerita at the University of Central Florida. “I am pleased with the practical tools that AGB is releasing. AGB’s directors also sit on institution and foundation boards across the country, and we know how important those types of resources are to effective governance.”

This is the third AGB board statement that focuses on internal or external influence. AGB’s board approved a statement on influence in 2012 and in 2001. The AGB Board of Directors regularly publishes statements to position the association on key issues affecting higher education governance.

The statement is publicly available on the AGB website. It will join the toolkit as a member-exclusive benefit in June 2024.

About AGB
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with more than 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership. Learn more at AGB.org.

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