Penn GSE AHEAD

Questions for Your Board

Effective boards ask good questions, both of themselves as well as of the institutions and the systems they govern. Asking impactful questions is important and difficult. At the same time, governance is an evolving effort raising questions that do not always have easy answers. We invite you to submit your most pressing questions here as a way to share your experience and gain answers.

What makes for good board meetings? 

Effective meetings are those that use time wisely and intentionally. Good meetings are clear about the objectives or outcomes for each block of meeting time. (Are you discussing an issue? Learning about a topic? Making a decision? Being informed by the administration?) Effective meetings have formats that vary meeting to meeting to help boards avoid becoming tapped by routines.

What is the leadership role that committee chairs should provide?

Chairs should work in partnership with staff liaisons to identify agenda items for committee meetings. They also should be skilled facilitators able to move discussions along, but also surface divergent perspectives. They should summarize the decisions and work of the committee. Finally, they should intentionally seek out other committee chairs to share the outcomes of their committee’s deliberations that might have implications for other committee work.

Should faculty (or students) have seats on the board? 

It is important for faculty to have a voice in the board room. However, a voice is different from a vote. Faculty (or students) may adopt a stakeholder perspective rather than a fiduciary one when holding a seat on the board. Strong boards find creative ways to engage faculty and understand their perspectives, such as (1) including faculty on board committees or on task forces, (2) engaging faculty both formally and informally before, during, and after board meetings, and (3) having board members present in the life of the campus.