Understanding public university governing boards – Part 2

What’s in a name: regent, trustee or governor? Explore the responsibilities of these boards and how the public can become involved or attend their meetings.

The first article in the three-part series, “Understanding public university governing boards,” highlighted the University of MichiganMichigan State University and Wayne State University as university governing boards that are selected by Michigan voters. This article concentrates on the responsibilities of these boards and how the public can become involved or attend their meetings.

The governing boards of all three schools are publicly elected by Michigan voters. Each board has eight members, who serve eight-year terms without compensation. By law, these boards are the governing body for the institutions and provide general supervision over their funds

Authority is given to each board as a whole rather than to individual regents, trustees or governors, and individual members have little authority and no ownership of the institutions. It is the board, in its entirety, that is recognized as the legal owner of the institution’s assets. As individuals, a board member is typically expected to support the institution financially, either personally or through influence. Trustees also act as ambassadors in their home community to build support for the institution.

The board has several basic responsibilities, including setting or reaffirming the university’s mission, acting as the legal owner of the university, selecting a president, evaluating and supporting the president, setting board policies and reviewing institutional performance. Boards are also involved with institutional fundraising and strategic planning. Each board determines the number and type of committees they believe will serve the institution best.

The selection of a university president can be the greatest influence a board has on an institution. University boards typically relinquish significant amounts of their power and authority to their president. The president usually takes the lead in setting an agenda for the board, and, therefore, for the institution.

Most meetings of these university governing boards are open to the public. Board and committee meeting schedules are posted along with rules for public comment for the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

The final article in this series will focus on how these board members are selected and who the individuals are that will appear on the Michigan November Ballot.

Michigan State University Extension provides broad forms of civics education for youth and adults.

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