Wednesday, January 30

A Bit of Sarbanes-Oxley for Universities, Please

This is a very interesting and important view on the independence of trustees of a University Board. I quote:

The impulse to impose Sarbanes-Oxley on universities is tempting.  Indeed, formal legal mandates on conflicts of interest and the other attributes of good governance might be even more appropriate for universities than for public corporations, as universities lack many of the safeguards of good governance, such as the ability to measure performance through profitability and engaged  shareholders with incentives to monitor performance.

It has traditionally has been assumed that universities, as ostensibly charitable organizations, would be run with an eye on the public good, thus formal restraints on self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and rules that apply to private corporations would not  be necessary.  Today, however, universities are big businesses riven with self-interest.  And there is little evidence that charitable purpose plays any role in their behavior.  University president's salaries routinely reach into the seven figures--Dartmouth's recent president, for example, earned over one million dollars a year and demanded millions of dollars of renovations to the college president's house and access to a private jet as part of his compensation package, even while laying off dozens of staff members and issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in debt (to be financed by future generations of students and parents) to close a massive budget deficit caused when the endowment cratered in the wake of the financial crisis.

Go read the full article, its very interesting..I fully concur with this view, being in this situation, I am quite concerned in general about the lack of governance that universities have, specially on this side of the pond. Do trustees or board members really hold university management to account? Very doubtful, when was the last time you heard any kind of debate in the newspaper between board members and management in universities as one would frequently hear in the corporate world?

And dont give me that guff about board members not knowing about academics or university policies / procedures, that’s insulting and basically tells me that your cranial end is interposed in your anterior end.

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