Board of Trustees Structural Changes

Howard University Board of Trustees Updates the Board Structure After Almost 50 Years

The Board of Trustees is guided by the university’s mission to deliver an educational experience of exceptional quality. To meet that mark, the Board continually examines areas where we can improve our processes and our structure to strengthen the overall institution and better serve the Howard University community. 

Over the last year, the Board underwent an extensive review of its current governance structure to ensure it is both in keeping with best practices of modern universities and designed to optimally engage, seek input, and communicate with university stakeholders. The Board was assisted in this process by an external firm well-regarded for its work in higher education and that has consulted with several prominent universities on good governance and best practices for effective stakeholder engagement. 

The Board’s review was diverse and comprehensive, including interviews with more than 40 university stakeholders, notably students, alumni, faculty, and former trustees. There was overwhelming consensus that our current process of governance and engagement across the university, from the Board through various stakeholder groups, is not working. Furthermore, the Board agreed that it needed to improve its processes and look for governance models that more closely aligned with peer leading-edge institutions. 

Based on the findings of this review, submitted to the Board Committee on Governance in February 2021, the Board voted unanimously on June 11, 2021 to approve a single unitary class of trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the university, phasing out trustee roles for students, faculty, and alumni over the next year. Student, faculty, and alumni perspectives are, and remain, essential to our future shared success. To this end, the Board affirmed and will adopt a number of additional mechanisms and forums across the university to solicit and provide broad input from a wide array of university stakeholders, particularly faculty and students. 

Beyond the formal changes to Board representation, this decision is a recognition that stakeholder input and involvement in institutional governance goes beyond the board room and must be a part of campus life. In future months, this will take the form of town halls, more formal engagement with the Faculty Senate, Howard University Student Association and Howard University Alumni Association, and the expansion of the Leadership Academy, which currently includes Program Chairs, Department Chairs, and Associate Deans, to include faculty. The role of the existing Board of Visitors is also being reviewed for expanded stakeholder involvement.  

The Board remains steadfast in its pursuit to strengthen the university and will continue to do so with future decision making. There will be much work still to be accomplished in the months and years ahead, and this work can only be done through the thoughtful engagement and participation of our entire university community. As we celebrate 154 years as an institution, we are now uniquely positioned to have the next 150 years chart a course for greater achievement, continued excellence and create a more unified sense of community. 

Please take a moment to watch the video above regarding this update.

 

 

Town Hall Meeting FAQs

What did the board of Trustees vote on June 11?

Over the last year, Howard University’s Board of Trustees, with the support of our external consultants, underwent an extensive review of its current structure to assess its effectiveness and efficiency to deliver a best-in-class education while continuing to serve stakeholders. 

On June 11th, the Board voted on changes to its governance structure to approve a single unitary class of trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the university and to significantly expand mechanisms and forums across the university to solicit and provide broad input from key university stakeholders. 

What do these changes mean for Howard University?

Howard University will now have a single Unitary Class of Trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the university. Previously the Board of Trustees included Affiliate Trustees for students, faculty, and alumni. 

This decision will phase out the current Affiliate Trustee roles over the course of the next year.   The Board also voted to significantly expand mechanisms and forums across the university to solicit and provide broad input from key university stakeholders. 

Why did the university remove the affiliate trustees from the Board?

Central to Howard University’s success is the leadership provided by a dedicated Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees ultimately removed Affiliate Trustees from the Board to modernize our governance structure, which allow the university to operate more effectively and be more in line with best practices from many other leading institutions. 

How does the University choose board members? Will that process change moving forward?

Nominations for potential board members are assessed and vetted through the Governance Committee, which makes a recommendation to the board for vote. This process will remain the same moving forward. 

The university looks for potential candidates that are aligned with the mission and vision of the institution and understand the needs and resources required to move Howard forward. In that regard, the university considers a wide range of candidates that possess a skill set, experience, and talent to make the university stronger. 

Who did the Board and IES interview as part of this process?

IES interviewed over 40 stakeholders, including alumni, faculty, and former trustees. 

Who is the IES?

The university engaged IES in 2020 to look closely into our governance approach. IES is well-regarded for its work in higher education and has consulted with several prominent universities on good governance and best practices for effective stakeholder engagement. IES has a number of highly regarded experts, including John Casteen, former President of the University of Virginia, and University of Connecticut; and Dale Jones, CEO, Diversified Search.

Could you share data from the Board review which lead to these results?

Over the last year, the Board of Trustees, with the assistance of external consultants, underwent an extensive review of its current governance structure to assess its effectiveness and ability to deliver a best-in-class education. 

After more than 40 interviews with university stakeholders, IES, the external consultants with expertise on board governance structure, submitted recommendations to the Board in February 2021. In addition to stakeholder interviews, IES also based their recommendations on the research and review of governance structures of other colleges and universities ranging from private schools to public universities and HBCUs. 

 The stakeholder interviews were diverse and comprehensive, including alumni, faculty, and former trustees. Based on the findings of this review, the Board voted on June 11 to approve a single unitary class of trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the university, phasing out trustee roles for students, faculty, and alumni over the next year. 

How will the university ensure that it continues to receive input from all stakeholders?

Howard University is deeply focused on creating additional forums to solicit and provide broad input from a wider, more comprehensive group of university stakeholders. From formal presentations by faculty in different areas of expertise, to rotating stakeholder group participation at board meetings, to board dinners, events, and fireside chats across campus - you can expect and will see far greater and more meaningful engagement between the board and the Howard community.  

Can you elaborate/present on the data which has lent to this decision?

Over the last year, the Board of Trustees, with the assistance of external consultants, underwent an extensive review of its current governance structure to assess its effectiveness and ability to deliver a best-in-class education. 

After more than 40 interviews with university stakeholders, IES, the external consultants with expertise on board governance structure, submitted recommendations to the Board in February 2021. In addition to stakeholder interviews, IES also based their recommendations on the research and review of governance structures of other colleges and universities ranging from private schools to public universities and HBCUs. 

The stakeholder interviews were diverse and comprehensive, including alumni, faculty, and former trustees. Based on the findings of this review, the Board voted on June 11 to approve a single unitary class of trustees to serve in a traditional fiduciary role for the university, phasing out trustee roles for students, faculty, and alumni over the next year. 

How will the university facilitate transparency between the Board of Trustees and HU stakeholders during voting periods and the development of new initiatives?

In future meetings of the Board of Trustees, we will engage a number of university stakeholders and ask they provide their perspective on pressing matters for the university. 

Experts from faculty and other stakeholder groups will be asked to participate in Board discussions relevant to their area of expertise. Leadership from key university organizations representing stakeholder groups at the University will be invited on a rotating basis to attend Board Committee Meetings to offer their perspective and recommendations on university matters of importance.