Board of Trustees holds first meeting with expanded public access

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Board Chairman Nelson Carbonell said he wanted to hold more trustee trainings on complex higher-education topics like Title IX and undergraduate admissions.

The Board of Trustees held its first meeting Friday since expanding public access to more of its discussions.

For the first time, reports from Board committees like academic affairs, finance and government and nominations were delivered during the public portion of the meeting, part of a push to increase transparency that began at the start of the academic year.

In his first Board meeting as university president, Thomas LeBlanc repeated his focus on the student experience and research, saying he wanted to work with the entire GW community to make it happen.

“I think it is important for the president to articulate a vision for the institution so that everyone can get on board,” he said. “I should not create some aspiration that is just my aspiration.”

Trustee Grace Speights, chair of the governance and nominations committee, spoke about the Board’s internal assessment of its performance and said for the first time trustees individually evaluated Board Chair Nelson Carbonell as part of the assessment.

She said a survey of trustees found that the Board had a strong commitment to the institution, but identified transparency and knowledge of complex higher-education topics as areas for improvement.

In an interview after the open session of the meeting, Carbonell said trustees, who often come from a professional – rather than an academic – background should have a greater understanding of major topics in higher education like Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law, student mental health and the undergraduate admissions process.

“That’s not something that you would normally talk about at the Board meeting because what’s the Board going to do,” he said. “But it’s information that the Board really wants and needs to do their job better.”

He said the Board would try to hold trustee trainings on those areas around the time of the Board’s quarterly meetings. He added that the Board had addressed transparency issues by expanding access to Board meetings and including students and faculty as full voting members of task forces.

The leaders of the Board’s two new task forces on alumni engagement and the student experience delivered reports on their initial efforts.

Trustee Roslyn Brock, the chair of the Board’s volunteer engagement task force, said the group wanted the University to have a more updated and thorough alumni database and said they would conduct more research and outreach over the next several months.

Ave Tucker, the chair of the student experience task force, said his task force would hold focus groups and community meetings in the coming months to hear recommendations on how to improve residence hall life, student health and academics and reduce bureaucracy.

During the meeting Ellen Zane, chair of the finance and audit committee, said the University’s finances improved last fiscal year, with the total revenue increasing by 10 percent and expenses rising by just one percent.

“President LeBlanc is coming on board with a solid financial state,” she said.

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