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MU Board of Governors completes self evaluation

Aug. 04, 2014 @ 10:35 PM

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University’s Board of Governors “compares favorably” among universities throughout the country, according to a consultant hired to lead the board through a self evaluation.

The board met for a special meeting Monday afternoon to discuss its strengths and weaknesses with James Lanier, a consultant with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, in the Shawkey Dining Room in the Memorial Student Center on campus.

The meeting was the final piece in a months-long review of the board that began in January, when the board also hired the association to complete a state-mandated evaluation of university President Stephen Kopp.

Lanier said his overall goal was to look at how the board matches up with best practice standards throughout the country.

“My overall assessment of the board was they were a very solid group of individuals,” Lanier said. “They are very committed to the institution, and they are doing the right things.”

The board hired Lanier and Terrence MacTaggart, a senior fellow with the association, to complete the board review and presidential evaluation, respectively, for about $40,000 total, said Layton Cotrill, general counsel for the university.

The board members individually met with Lanier in January before a group meeting. Monday’s work session originally was to take place during the February board meeting, but time constraints forced them to reschedule.

The three-and-a-half hour meeting almost entirely took place in executive session, but Lanier said the board talked about how the board can improve, specifically citing an article titled The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Boards.

He said a key focus for boards throughout the country, and at Marshall, is establishing rules of engagement during meetings.

“One would think everyone knows what is expected of everybody,” Lanier said. “We find there are nuances in each board, and having those rules in writing makes sure the expectations are clear. We are encouraging them to write down their rules of engagement — how they interact with the university president, how they engage with each other, those kinds of things.”

The review equally was beneficial for Kopp, who said the board review is not mandated by the state, but is recommended by the association.

“This is all about where do we want to be as we look into the future in terms of how the board operates and how the board functions,” Kopp said. “What are some of those attributes that differentiate a so-so board from a high performing board, and how do we incorporate that into our culture so these become the habits of what board members do and what the president does in terms of our interaction and our relationship? If you look at the role of the president and the board, it truly is a partnership, and we all need to be working on the same agendas in partnership.”

Board Vice Chairman Ed Howard, who presided during the meeting in Chairman Michael Sellards’ absence, said the review brought to light new ways to function as a board, including the establishment of a governance committee and keeping the board’s priorities in check.

“The entire thing we have to keep in mind while we’re doing this is the mission of the university, and that is one thing: The education for the student,” Howard said. “No matter what we’re doing, if it doesn’t come back to providing a better education for the student, then it’s wrong.”

Howard said there were a lot of ideas that came from what he said was a brainstorming session about how the board can better function, but he said it will take more work to clearly determine which steps it will take first.

“We have some things we want to do, but we will have to prioritize them first,” Howard said. “We are still defining the things we need to do.”

Follow Reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter, @LaciePiersonHD.



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