The nature of trusteeship
The authority and fiduciary responsibilities of the trustees arise exclusively from their participation with other members of the governing board when it is officially convened. Individual trustees have no legal authority, nor are they entitled to special privileges.
The Indiana code assigns responsibilities to the board. As IU has grown over time, so have these responsibilities expanded in size and scope. By the mid-1980s, IU’s trustees were spending inordinate amounts of time reviewing and acting upon managerial and administrative actions.
Delegation of authority
In September 1987, the board approved a resolution delegating authority to manage and administer the university to the president of the university and his or her staff. The trustees said this delegation would permit them to become more actively and deeply involved in substantial policy issues affecting the university’s educational and academic planning and programs.
Trustees retained a number of responsibilities for themselves, including:
- The organization of the board and selection of its officers and committees
- Appointment to membership upon corporate boards specifically providing for Indiana University representation, or to boards of advisors or visitors
- Adoption of any resolution of the board specifically required by statute (such as upon the sale of surplus real property), and of bond resolutions
- Appointment to positions as university officers, deans of schools, and titled professors; appointment and promotion to tenured faculty positions
- Approval of programs and other transactions of the university that require approval of the Higher Education Commission, governor, or State Budget Agency
- Adoption of a budget for the university, or of an appropriation request
- Statutory processing of conflict of interest disclosure statements
- Such other matters as the board may from time to time adopt
Trusteeship can impose significant demands on an individual’s time. The board meets six times a year, usually on Thursdays and Fridays, on various IU campuses around the state. Attendance is mandatory. According to state law, “The board of trustees shall declare vacant the seat of any trustee who is absent from two successive meetings of the board of trustees; or guilty of any gross immorality or breach of the bylaws of Indiana University.”
Trustees are expected to participate in special board meetings and committee sessions and to attend major university ceremonies such as Commencement, honorary degree conferrals, and dedications and groundbreakings. Many trustees take a lively interest in the life of the university and choose to attend colloquia, celebratory events, athletic competitions, and alumni activities.
Responsibilities and rewards
The Indiana University board is small, which means that all nine members must become fluent in the vast array of issues pertaining to the institution. Many trustees have said that they devote several hours a week to preparing for meetings and mastering the details of governing Indiana University. The first year of a trustee’s term can present a particularly challenging learning curve.
Most trustees say that the rewards outweigh the challenges, because the position provides an opportunity to give back to the institution that gave each of them so much.