Thursday, April 30, 2009

BLOGSCAN - Accountable Academic Governance Under Threat

On The Torch blog, hosted by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), this post by Kyle Smeallie summarized the travails of "petition candidates" for the boards of trustees of two elite American universities (Dartmouth and Harvard). As we have noted, at most universities, the boards of trustees, the bodies ultimately responsible for upholding the universities' missions, are closed shops. At most universities, the boards appoint new members to replace departing ones, without input from alumni, parents, students, faculty or anyone else who might be considered constituents. Thus, at most universities, even though the boards are ultimately responsible for the stewardship of the institutions, and upholding the institutions' missions, practically, they are accountable to no one. At very few universities, there may be contested elections for a few board seats, and an opportunity for those outside the board, usually alumni, to place candidates on the ballot. However, even at those somewhat more enlightened universities, those candidates face an uphill battle. Thus, while Dartmouth and Harvard have somewhat more transparent, accountable, and representative governance than do most academic institutions, even that is under threat.

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