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The failure of university boards to meet the accountability test in handling Nikole Hannah Jones’ tenure application demonstrates how Trustees held it.

The failure of university boards to meet the accountability test in handling Nikole Hannah Jones’ tenure application demonstrates how Trustees held it.

 

Hannah-Jones’ case at all UNC-Chapel Hill :The power of university boards of trustees is considerable, but they can only get attention when they are hiring a new president or in times of crisis.

Boards are not only creating crises, but they’re also navigating them. After deliberating in closed session on June 30, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted 9-4 for Nikole Hannah Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellowship recipient, tenure. After Hannah-Jones had been denied tenure in earlier board deliberations, the board decided after much public criticism.

Hannah-Jones’ case at all UNC-Chapel Hill

 

Hannah-Jones’ case was supported at all UNC-Chapel Hill’s tenure process levels, including the provost, who is the chief academic officer and president – except the Board of Trustees. This was a strange thing. Even though the system’s statutes delegate faculty decisions to the board regarding personnel, it is not uncommon for the board to support tenure recommendations at the institution level by faculty and administrators.

The board Against Hannah-Jones’ case

 

The board initially voted against Hannah-Jones’ case. They also questioned her ability and work. Similar concerns were not raised in the previous evaluations of candidates for similar positions. Conservative broadcast media echoed initial concerns.

The Assembly in North Carolina

Emails obtained by The Assembly in North Carolina show that board members had been in contact with a significant donor who disagreed with Hannah-Jones’ approach to journalism. This would be a breach of principles of academic freedom, shared governance among faculty and administration, and a significant aspect of tenure evaluation. This undermining can be exacerbated if donors influence personnel decisions.

 

Higher education governance scholars, we study issues such as board composition, organizational culture, and decision-making.

 

The Hannah Jones case and similar cases show how board composition can influence how boards make decisions. Board culture can also have an impact on how panels make decisions. This can allow for personal interests and political values to be inserted into an environment that is supposed not to have them. This idea of objective or democratically representative decision-making is essential to ensure that the institution’s best interests are the primary motivations for making decisions.

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Navigating the Challenges

 

Boards can be more accountable and equitable by implementing and maintaining practices that enable them to navigate constantly changing political and social landscapes.

 

Recently, we developed a framework that guides boards in the execution of their duties. It is called “Culturally Sustainable Governance” and shows how board decision-making can prioritize equity as state political realities continue to be imposed on them.

 

Our framework helps boards be more accountable while protecting the institution’s reputation and viability. Our framework encourages boards to view equity as a foundational element of deliberation and decision-making rather than an afterthought.

 

Board members represent the highest levels of the university administration. They can make decisions that center on equity and diversity, and they can also fulfill their responsibilities with diligence and excellence. This, in the end, leads to more robust and more equitable institutions that will benefit all of us in the future.

 

Felecia Commodore Assistant Professor, Educational Foundations & Leadership Old Dominion University, and Demetri L. Morgan Assistant Professor of Higher Education Loyola University Chicago.

 

 

Boards and equity

 

The institution or system they represent has a fiduciary obligation to its governing boards. They are responsible for supporting and protecting the institution’s mission, ensuring that the institution effectively executes its mission, and ensures that the institution can carry out its mission. The board’s primary focus is often on external relations, fundraising, accountability, and oversight.

 

Boards can function well when guided by the institution’s best interest and not those of their friends or family.

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While this is the expectation, it’s not always the case in all areas of decision-making, including budget allocation, policy setting, and presidential hirings. These concerns were highlighted by the highly publicized and controversial appointment of Lt. General Robert Caslen to be University of South Carolina’s president in 2019. It also showed how political motivations and connections could lead board practices to veer off-track. Caslen, who admitted to plagiarising, has since resigned.

 

The boards of public universities are not diverse. According to an industry survey, the majority of their members are white older men from the business.

 

We have noticed that higher education is becoming more concerned about diversity. However, the topic of diversity on boards seems to be overlooked.

 

This is important because, even though board members are supposed to be objective, research shows that many of them find their political or personal values more intertwined in the decision-making process. They are the ones making the decisions.

Does accountability exist?

 

Higher education experts often suggest that boards be autonomous and independent entities unaffected by operational issues related to diversity and equity. This allows them to exercise institutional oversight and accountability.

 

We are scholars who have studied higher education boards and believe that a politicized board composition can strengthen the relics, among other forms, of patriarchy, white supremacy, and other forms of hegemony within today’s institutions.

 

Some scholars also voiced concern about the political nature of board decision-making, such as denials of tenure and presidential turnover.

Law And Business Faculty EventsThe University of Newcastle, Australia

 

The Foundation for Individual Rights noted the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s situation in education. This non-partisan group defends freedom of speech on campuses and has acknowledged that boards were no longer subject to the same autonomy and independence as they used to. This raises concerns that boards of governors could be motivated by ideological loyalty or political parties.

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Until now, boards were largely invisible participants in higher education’s discussion about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

 

However, boards’ visibility is decreasing. This exposes two questions: If board members have to answer to political figures, are they still representative of the institution they oversee? Can they contribute to the increasing drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus?

 

Influence of state politics

 

Most public institution boards are appointed by the governor or state legislators.

 

This could mean that it’s not just personal or individual political beliefs that drive decisions regarding everything, from presidential hirings to academic program approval. Research has shown that ideologies and political climates in states can impact the decisions made by boards.

The University of Newcastle, Australia The International e-Mental Health Conference

 

This problem can be illustrated by a board that selects a strong candidate for the presidency but has little to no experience in higher education. These decisions can be even more concerning if they are made with no input from faculty or other institutional stakeholders. They usually weigh in on important decisions.

 

One study found that trustees can get involved in university operations beyond their official roles by donating to certain areas and supporting specific projects—the broker or build connections that could or might not be beneficial to the institution.

 

Partisan appointees on governing boards can turn higher education institutions into political arenas. This includes closing research centers and academic centers that conduct research or have missions that are in direct opposition to the dominant political ideology. These contests can distract from the board’s primary mission of serving students and the university community.

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