Proposals for University Governance in Washington

30Jan12

The Washington State Legislature is divesting itself from higher education. Universities that were once primarily state-funded are now primarily student-funded. As willing as legislators are to push the burden of payment onto students, they have so far been unwilling to give up governance of the universities. All of the trustees and regents of the six public universities are gubernatorial appointees. At the same time, compensation for university presidents has gone the path of CEO pay — disconnected from performance, and approved by boards which only nominally represent those to whom they are responsible. Here are two proposals to correct that situation:

On Selection of Regents and Trustees:

The Governor (representing the State) shall appoint such a number to the boards of trustees of the public four-year colleges and universities as represents the proportion of the university’s Ledger I budget (comprised of tuition & direct state operating funding) that is funded by the State. The remaining seats on the boards of trustees shall be selected by direct election by the student body of each university. The existing positions of student trustees or regents shall continue to be filled by gubernatorial appointment, and shall be considered toward the fulfillment of the State’s representation, for as long as State funding provides for appointed members. Should State funding drop below a level which would provide for the appointment of board members, the student trustees or regents shall be elected annually by the usual process. As all trustees are currently seated by gubernatorial appointment, selection shall alternate between the governor and the student bodies until proportional representation is achieved. If State funding drops below 50% of Ledger I funding, all subsequent vacancies shall be by election, until proportionality is reached. All elections shall be conducted by the student body organization of each respective university. No endorsement or party affiliation shall appear on the ballot for trustee or regent elections.

On Executive Compensation:

All extraordinary compensation for administrators at public colleges and universities (compensation beyond salary and regular benefits — to include, but not limited to bonuses and retention incentives) shall be subject to recall within one year of the public announcement of the terms of the contract, if ten percent of the student body at said college or university sign a petition requesting such a recall. In such a recall vote, said compensation requires a majority of votes cast to be enacted. Should it fail, all other terms of the contract shall remain intact and enforceable.

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