Role & Responsibility of a Trustee

Role and Responsibility of a Trustee

As a new trustee, you may or may not be familiar with:

What a Trustee Can Expect From the President

  • Be honest in dealings with board members.
  • Keep all trustees informed of issues, needs, and operations of the college.
  • Schedule orientation retreats for the Board soon after new Board members are appointed, and before the first Board meeting.
  • Be available to answer questions from Board members.
  • Be impartial in dealing with Board members.
  • Try to reach consensus among Board members but be willing to accept that consensus may not always be possible.
  • Make recommendations on all issues that require Board action.
  • Provide guidance to the Board in the Development of College Goals.
  • Provide adequate and timely board agenda information.
  • Be committed to the College and to meeting responsibilities.
  • Find legal and ethical ways to make things happen.
  • Involve people appropriately in decisions.
  • Be visible on the Campus, in the community, and in appropriate statewide and national forums.
  • Help the Board members develop parameters for collective bargaining.
  • Inform the Board about College, student, and employee accomplishments.
  • Inform the Board about important legislative issues at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Support Board policy and Board actions to the public and the staff.
  • Follow through promptly with Board requests.

What the Presidents Can Expect from the Trustees

  • Provide the President with a clear understanding of the Board’s expectations.
  • Regularly evaluate the President.
  • Recognize the distinction between policy setting and operations.
  • Work with fellow Board members and the President in a spirit of harmony and cooperation.
  • Provide visible public support for the President.
  • Base decisions on what is best for the College and not on special interests.
  • Refer complaints and suggestions to the President.
  • Make sure the President is the primary contact with the College.
  • Protect the mission of student learning.
  • Protect the long-term interests of the College.
  • Prepare adequately for Board meetings.
  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality.
  • Avoid public criticism of the President.
  • Control inappropriate behavior of fellow Board members.
  • Recognize the President and other College staff for local, statewide, and national leadership roles and achievements.
  • Support the professional involvement and development of the President.
  • Regularly review the President’s employment contract to be sure provisions are fair and competitive.
  • Plan leadership changes as necessary.

Responsibilities of the Board of Trustees

  • Focus on being a policy maker by supporting the clear distinction between the policy-making functions of the Board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement these policies.
  • Vote on all motions of the Board except when removal from action for conflict of interest is declared.
  • Appoint and support the President.
  • Ensure institutional effectiveness through professional management of the College by the President.
  • Approve the annual budget.
  • Annually evaluate the performance of the President.
  • Approve contracts, disposition of property, and disposal of records as recommended by the President.
  • Promote and support the College in its relations with the public.
  • Support a climate for effective change.
  • Preserve institutional autonomy.
  • Protect the College and its administration from undue pressure by external bodies.
  • Attend all Board meetings, Board Committee meetings and review all materials prior to the meetings to assure meaningful participation. (By state law, three consecutive absences from Board meetings must be reported to the Governor’s office.)
  • Participate in Community College Trustees organizations that will keep each member abreast of state and national trends and issues in higher education.
  • Be courteous and treat other Board Members with respect.
  • Consider the best interest of the College at all times.

Role of the Board Chair

The Chair of the Board of Trustees:
  • Serves as the Presiding Officer of the Board.
  • Serves as advisor to the President.
  • Serves as advisor to the Board.
  • Reinforces the mission of the College with Board members and the community.
  • Helps the President preserve the local autonomy of the institution.
  • Facilitates communication among trustees at public meetings.
  • Is spokesman for the Board in concert with the President.
  • Demonstrates exemplary ethical leadership.
  • Represents the Board at College and community functions and at state and national meetings.
  • Coordinates the annual evaluation of the President.
  • Negotiates contract provisions with the President.

Board to President Relationship

The Board of Trustees must:
  • Select a president who can meet the College’s needs.
  • Evaluate the President annually.
  • Develop a relationship with the President based upon mutual respect and trust.
  • Maintain candid and forthright communication with the President.
  • Support the President’s right to make administrative decisions.
  • Ensure that the President will be the contact point between the Board of Trustees and the College.
  • Not undermine the President’s authority, nor engage in surprises.
  • Advise the President on setting priorities for the institution.
  • Represent the College with the President at community, state, and national functions.

Board of Trustees Code of Ethics

  • To resist every temptation and outside pressure to use my position as a community college Board member to benefit myself or any other individual or agency apart from the total interest of the community college district.
  • To bear in mind that the primary function of the Board is to establish policies for governance of the institution.
  • To support and adhere to the Board of Trustees rule prohibiting the employment of Board members and their direct relatives by the College.
  • To consider the viewpoint of citizens, organizations and businesses in the district with respect to establishing policy on current college operations and proposed future developments.
  • To support the state and national community college trustees associations.
  • To strive for the most effective community college Board service in a spirit of teamwork and commitment to public higher education.

Trustee Job Description

Boards have 12 core responsibilities that all college trustees share (John W. Nason):
  • Appoint, support, and assess the performance of the president.
  • Clarify the institution’s mission.
  • Approve long-range plans.
  • Approve the educational program.
  • Ensure the well-being of faculty, students, and staff.
  • Ensure strong financial management.
  • Ensure adequate financial resources.
  • Preserve institutional autonomy.
  • Interpret the campus to the community.
  • Interpret the needs of society to the campus.
  • Serve as a court of last appeal.
  • Assess their own performance.

Ten Truisms of Trusteeship

  1. Individual trustees have no authority.
  2. Trustees should not circumvent proper channels.
  3. Trustees should not violate confidentiality.
  4. Trustees should not represent special interests.
  5. Trustees should not speak or vote for political purposes.
  6. Trustees should not have hidden agendas.
  7. Trustees should not engage in conflicts of interest.
  8. Trustees should not engage in surprises.
  9. Trustees should not say or do anything that is not in the best interest of the College and community.
  10. Trustees should not interfere in administration.