In recent days, the Baptist Blogger has found ourselves reacquainted with the mechanisms of higher education administration and governance. Among the tomes seldom accessed in our personal archives is a little known book entitled, “Trustees and Higher Education.”
The author of that book was Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1959-1970, and thereafter the founding president of the Criswell Bible Institute in Dallas.
Here are some money quotes:
“The trustees should participate with the president in the selection of all other administrative offices. The latter may include deans, a public relations official, a vice-president, a business manager, librarian, registrar and others. The trustees are wise to make unmistakably clear to the president the kind of image they wish the institution to have . . . Assuming that the trustees have themselves been selected with any measure of wisdom, they in turn can and should be trusted to make the destiny-laden decisions concerning all offices and positions, including teaching personnel, the president, and his administrative associates.” (p. 25)
Consideration: Southwestern Trustees need to take control immediately of the public relations office at the seminary and install an experienced public relations professional who reports independently and directly to the board officers for the immediate future. No press releases or statements from seminary officials should be allowed without trustee authorization.
“All major decisions of the board of trustees should be the result of a board majority, not the work of small groups or individual trustees. Usually the only reason why individual trustees would take the authority of the entire board is because a vacuum has been left by the apathy and inactivity of other board members . . . Trustees may seek personal interviews with faculty members or students in order to know more accurately what is transpiring in the life of the institution. However, all such interviews should be with the knowledge and preferably the concurrence of the first administrative officer. The trustees ultimately hold the president fully responsible for campus problems and trends.” (p. 29)
“Communication lines between trustees and teaching personnel should always be used at the initiative of the trustees and not the converse.” (p. 38)
Consideration: Southwestern Trustees must resist the temptation to listen only to those faculty members who take the initiative to communicate with trustees and the seminary board of visitors concerning the president and his suitability for office. Neither should they be allowed to treat their trusteeship as a mere sinecure, complete with afternoon tea parties and guided tours of bogus Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The real work the president is doing may, in fact, be carefully concealed from trustee overseers. Lengthy powerpoint presentations and flashy video reports are notorious for their ability to distract undiscerning trustees.
For further reading, click below:
Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where it Matters Most
Report of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance
Governance for a New Era: A Blueprint for Higher Education Trustees