Blue Ribbon Commission Focuses on Accountability

Posted: May 15, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The governing board of each college and university, rather than the state, should be responsible for directing the institution’s course, states the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education in its final report. The commission identifies two factors related to a college or university’s success: academic quality and institutional efficiency. According to the report, “academic quality measures should demonstrate the success of students during their higher education experience as well as after graduation” and “efficiency measures should demonstrate institutional efficiency in the use of fiscal, human, and physical resources.”

The commission says boards of visitors should provide oversight and leadership, but in order to do so effectively, they must focus on matters of “broad and central importance.” These matters include the performance of the institution’s president and the institution’s commitment to undergraduate, graduate, and/or professional programs, as well as a balance between teaching, research, and service and a focus on strategic planning, development of institutional budgets, academic integrity, and fiscal efficiency. Boards that micromanage, the commission says, “will not have sufficient time to attend to the overarching policy matters that are the heart of their responsibility.”

In its report, the commission singles out George Mason’s Board of Visitors for its committee structure.

To address the issue of accountability, the commission produced eight recommendations. Following is a representative sampling:

  • Boards of visitors should regularly review the mission statement of the institution to ensure that it clearly defines the institution’s unique role in Virginia’s public system of higher education and that the institution is directing its resources to being the best it can be in that role.

  • The General Assembly should adopt a mandatory training requirement for members of boards of visitors in their first year of service, such as that already in place for local school boards.

  • The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) should continue to serve as a statewide coordinating body for Virginia’s system of higher education.

The report, available on the SCHEV website, was produced by a committee including President Alan Merten and Sidney Dewberry, a member of George Mason’s Board of Visitors, and representatives of many of the commonwealth’s other colleges and universities, members of the General Assembly, and business leaders.

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