National higher ed association warns of consequences for universities that forfeit political independence


The Association of Governing Boards of College and Universities last week released a statement that should be required reading for anyone concerned about Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s iron-fisted control of LSU.

LSU flags

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As readers of this blog know, Jindal’s handpicked Board of Supervisors has fired every senior administrator who has differed with the governor. His Economic Development Secretary, Stephen Moret, is blatantly angling for the job of system president. And now, in today’s Baton Rouge Advocate, comes news that Jindal’s former chief of staff Stephen Waguespack may be in line to take the job of general counsel for the LSU System. (Like Moret, Waguespack declined to forswear interest in the job.)

As I have pointed out in another blog post, Jindal’s control of LSU poses risks to the university’s upcoming re-accreditation.

This latest advisory from the AGB raises the stakes for LSU (download a pdf of the full AGB statement here):

The Association of Governing Boards Releases AGB Statement on External Influences on Universities and Colleges

To help higher education presidents and boards respect and welcome input from all key constituencies yet also ensure that the decision-making process is free from unwarranted intrusions, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has developed the “AGB Statement on External Influences on Universities and Colleges.” The statement is intended to guide boards of both public and independent institutions as they confront the proliferating challenges to governance from many quarters.

In recent years, governing boards of colleges and universities have faced growing external pressures on their work. Elected officials have attempted to direct governance actions, regulators have tried to redefine the meaning of board independence, donors and sponsors have looked for ways to set institutional policies, and a broad array of organizations has sought to influence decision making.

“Colleges and universities must work harder than ever before to meet heightened public demands for accountability, transparency, improved educational quality, greater student access and degree attainment, and more-effective cost containment,” said Jim Geringer, chair of the board of AGB and Western Governors University and former governor of Wyoming. “Governing boards, as overseers of the public’s trust in higher education, have an obligation to remain open to external input and ensure that the institutions they govern are responsive to such stakeholder and societal needs. It is crucial that boards welcome ideas, knowledge, advice, and fresh concepts to the boardroom.”

“But while encouraging legitimate stakeholder communication and external contacts,” Geringer continued, “boards also must be armed with the judgment necessary to detect when influence becomes unwarranted pressure that conflicts with responsible governance.

Richard D. Legon, president of AGB, agreed: “Boards should not cede their authority to any self-serving political, economic, or personal interest external to the institution.”

The statement highlights four basic principles, organized around key governance themes. Boards should:

  • Preserve institutional independence and autonomy.
  • Demonstrate board independence to govern as established in charter, state law, or constitution.
  • Keep academic freedom central and be the standard bearer for the due-process protection of faculty, staff, and students.
  • Assure institutional accountability to the public interest.

The statement describes each principle and its application to governing boards in detail, and includes questions for boards to ask themselves about how they respond to external influences. AGB recommends that potential trustees be educated about the principles before they join a governing board and then reminded of the principles periodically throughout their board service.


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3 Responses to National higher ed association warns of consequences for universities that forfeit political independence

  1. JMW70710 says:

    Well, this is in keeping with the agenda of proving government-run institutions to be inept so as to justify privatizing them, or at the very least transforming them into a conduit to transform tax monies to private entities:

    1. Slash funding for said institution/department/agency, rendering it unable to perform its basic functions.
    2. Publicly descry/lament/gnash teeth that “government” just can’t perform as well as the public sector.
    3. Hire private firm to come in to “manage” said institution/department/agency, paying exorbitant fees.

    While the institution/department/agency does not benefit in any significant way, the private firm–composed of political contributors and buddies–makes out like a bandit. Taxpayers can no longer hold anyone accountable for mismanagement because these private companies are not liable to the same requirements for transparency or public records as the government bureaucracy. No money has been saved, but the government is “smaller.”

    4. Declare success in the war against “big government.”


  2. Clydia DeFreeese says:

    I’ve been waiting for SOMEONE to speak up about all that’s going on, but so far everyone is keeping silent. We are a state of sheep with the wolf devouring everything in sight; no one says a word. Keep up the good work! We need leadership!!


  3. Pingback: LSU officials caught outsourcing decisions on public records to Jindal « Something Like the Truth

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