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Refinements and Overhauls to Whitman Governance

—Staff report

On May 4, the Whitman College Board of Trustees approved a new board governance structure that, for the first time in 20 years, reimagines how the trustees will organize their work in the future.

"These changes have been implemented after a year of study by the Governance Review Committee," said Board Chair Brad McMurchie '84, and "are focused on retooling in a way that helps the Board of Trustees address the increasingly complex challenges facing both higher education and Whitman College by increasing our focus on key strategic and financial priorities."

Improvements include expanding the size of the board from 18 members to a maximum of 24. Additionally, a student representative will be invited to attend board meetings. A larger board will help bolster the diversity, capabilities and financial resources essential to Whitman's future success.

Also, board committees have been streamlined from 12 to seven to encourage more in-depth conversation and more meeting time around areas of strategic importance to the college. The reconfiguration results in three policy committees—resources; the Whitman experience; advancing Whitman—and four functional committees—executive; audit; investment; nominating and governance.

In addition to the Board of Trustees, the governance changes also affect Whitman's Board of Overseers, a longstanding leadership group that has been reconceived as the President's Advisory Board. This new entity will help ensure that strategic priorities are supported by a group of identified Whitman leaders. The initial focus will be on furthering the college's diversity initiatives, assisting students with preparing for life after Whitman and serving as special ambassadors for Whitman with alumni, friends and prospective students.

"This review has carefully considered how to best involve faculty, staff and students in our governance work, and we believe these changes will allow campus constituents more meaningful involvement with trustees," added McMurchie. Faculty will continue to have a representative, the chair of the faculty, who attends trustee meetings. This representative will participate in discussions, but not have a vote. One faculty member will be asked to serve on each policy committee. Similar to the faculty representative, the student representative to the Board of Trustees will participate in discussions, but not have a vote. In addition, a student representative will continue to serve on each of the three policy committees. Staff will continue to be represented in trustee and committee meetings by presidential cabinet members.

The Governance Review Committee comprised Barbara Feigin '59: trustee, overseer emerita and committee chair; James Hayner: trustee emeritus, past trustee chair, past overseer; James Robart '69: trustee emeritus, past trustee chair, past overseer chair; Nancy Serurrier: trustee vice chair; Norman Swick '71: overseer chair; Denise Tabbutt '87: trustee, past overseer chair; and David Nierenberg, former trustee.

Published on Jun 20, 2017
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