Part II: Standards of Excellence
13. Governing Board

The Bylaws of the Colgate University Board of Trustees are provided in SD 22, and the membership of the board and of its committees can be found in the Catalogue.

Structure and responsibilities of the Board of Trustees

The Colgate University Board of Trustees has final responsibility for the conduct of the University. The powers and responsibilities of the Board include the appointment or removal of the President of the university and the officers of the Board; the approval of the appointment of the Provost; the approval of the awarding of degrees; the approval of the appointment, promotion, and awarding of tenure to the faculty; the establishment and review of the basic educational programs and policies of the University; the establishment of the budget of the University upon presentation by the President and recommendation of the budget committee of the Board; the authorization of the sale of property and assets; authorization of the construction and major renovation of buildings; the institution and support of major fund-raising efforts; and the authorization of student charges.

The Board consists of thirty-five members. Six of the members are nominated by the Board of Directors of the Alumni Corporation and are permitted to serve two consecutive three-year terms. Although it is not specified in the current bylaws, two positions on the board are designated for recent graduates of the University (i.e., those having been graduated within the last five years), each of whom serves one three-year term. In 1996, the Board voted to designate a position for the parent of a current student, who serves a single three-year term. The remaining members of the Board may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms. Members are elected by the Board after nomination by the Nominating Committee, a group composed of five members of the Board, one member of the faculty, and one student. The President of the University is also a member of the Board during his or her term in office. The Board frequently discusses the need to be as inclusive as possible in terms of the race, gender, and professional experience of the members it elects.

Officers are elected annually by the Board membership and include a chairman, a vice chairman, a treasurer, and a secretary. The latter two officers need not be members of the Board, and ordinarily the treasurer is the financial vice President of the University and the secretary is the Assistant to the President.

The Board has regular meetings at least four times a year, with one meeting in the fall and one in the spring held in Hamilton. One meeting in January is held in New York City. The fall meeting in Hamilton includes an open session in which any member of the campus community can bring up an issue. Election of board members, officers, and committee members is held at the May meeting, just prior to Commencement in Hamilton.

In addition to an Executive Committee, there are seventeen standing committees of the Board, namely (1) the Finance Committee, (2) the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, (3) the Committee on Academic and Faculty Affairs, (4) the Committee on Student Affairs, (5) the Committee on Religious Life, (6) the Budget Committee, (7) the Planning Committee, (8) the Audit Committee, (9) the Committee on Admissions and Student Aid, (10) the Nominating Committee, (11) the Committee on Development and External Affairs, (12) the Committee on Athletic Affairs, (13) the Committee on University Organization, (14) the Committee on Executive Compensation, (15) the Joint Committee on Honorary Degrees and Civic Awards, (16) the Legal Affairs and Insurance Committee, and (17) the Committee on Technology.

While the Board does not have a formal mechanism for reviewing its own performance, two committees have been used recently to examine the Board’s effectiveness. Under Van P. Smith, who chaired the Board from 1991 to 1996, the Committee on University Organization reviewed the committee structure of the Board. Wm. Brian Little, who became chairman in 1996, is using the Planning Committee to structure future Board retreats, which are held every other year during the summer. In addition, the Board seeks to involve as many trustees as possible in chairing committees in order to maximize input from its members. The Board currently focuses its regular meetings on a particular topic (e.g., athletic scholarships in the Patriot League, the budget, building projects, etc.).

Recent actions and initiatives

Dean Pinchin and Kirk Raab, past chair of the Committee on Academic and Faculty Affairs, recently initiated efforts to acquaint the Board with various academic programs of the University. Groups of faculty have been invited to Board meetings to discuss curricular innovation in the arts, in student research in Sociology & Anthropology, and in the new Environmental Studies Program. In addition, at the invitation of the Dean and the Division Directors, members of the Board have spent time on campus learning about the curriculum.

Three actions of the Board in the last ten years have had or will have particularly wide-reaching effects on campus. The first was the work of the Special Committee on Residential Life (SCRL), which was established by the Board in July 1989 "for the purposes of (a) reviewing the structure and functioning of Colgate’s residential units, with particular attention to the role, structure and function of fraternities and sororities, and (b) recommending a course of action regarding residential life to the full Board." In studying the situation prior to making its report, the SCRL committee welcomed input from a wide cross-section of campus voices. The result was the "Report of the Special Committee on Residential Life to the Colgate University Board of Trustees" (the SCRL report), published in September 1990. According to the secretary of the Board, the Board is satisfied with the improvements that have been made subsequent to the SCRL report. It maintains an interest in these issues and looks forward to receiving future updates on residential life at Colgate. A second action of the Board that has had significant impact on the campus was the decision in January 1994 to decrease the size of the faculty by 5% in order to maintain competitive faculty compensation. The third important area of Board involvement is in the strong leadership roles its members have played in the recent comprehensive, capital campaign.