The Virginia House of Delegates voted yesterday on two bills that would change state requirements for college and university boards of visitors across the state.
The House passed HB 1952 unanimously, while HB 1940 was voted in by a 77-21 split. The former requires higher training standards for board members, while the latter guarantees the positions of non-voting student and faculty boards of visitors representatives.
Student and faculty membership in boards of visitors has not yet been standardized at the state level, but the College of William and Mary has provided these positions for quite some time.
“Bill 1940 would basically apply practices that William and Mary has been applying for a decade,” current faculty representative William Hausman ’71 said.
The bill would require student and faculty representatives to be elected by their respective governing bodies, rather than appointed by the school administration itself.
“I’m a huge fan of how we do this; I don’t hold my position because the rector or president gave it to me,” Student Assembly President Curt Mills ’13 said. “I am one of two people who is both a student body president and a student member of the Board of Visitors. If [the bill passes], William and Mary would already meet that requirement.”
Still, these representatives cannot vote and are subject to exclusion from some of the board’s closed sessions.
“Nothing in this section shall prohibit any board of visitors from excluding such representatives from discussions of faculty grievances, faculty or staff disciplinary matters or salaries, or other matters, at the discretion of the board,” HB 1940 reads.
On the other hand, HB 1952 would make changes to how the College’s Board of Visitors operates. If passed, it would require new board members to go through a training program designed to address issues of higher education within the first two years of their arrival.
“My sense is that the new members don’t often get trained,” Mills said. “A lot of these guys who get appointed to the Board are immensely successful people, so they have pretty set worldviews … I don’t know how much they can be altered.”
HB 1952 outlines a list of 17 possible training topics and allows for the addition of further courses based on the judgment of the State Council for Higher Education. Topics include the function and role of governing boards, institutional ethics, investment and current issues; one course is dedicated entirely to the requirements of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
This bill would require greater transparency of board proceedings, mandating that boards of visitors make the minutes of their open sessions readily available online. It would also require a majority vote to make changes to the contracts of university presidents.
The two bills must still pass through the Virginia State Senate before they can be implemented, and the College’s BOV has not yet announced any changes publicly.