August 22, 2012
On August 21, the Hampden-Sydney Board of Trustees, senior staff, and faculty, student, and parent representatives met in Richmond to begin the process of rewriting the Board's 1938 By-Laws. The meeting was led by Tom Longin of the Association of Governing Boards (AGB).
Thomas N. Allen '60, Chairman of the Hampden-Sydney Board, began the meeting by pointing out that by-laws which do not reflect best practices "present opportunities for unnecessary confusion, misunderstanding, and confrontation. "
Dr. Longin spoke at length about crafting by-laws that clarify and facilitate shared governance, or, as he prefers, "collaborative leadership," which is the historic culture of higher education. Boards, which have the ultimate authority, govern but do not manage. Faculty have unique responsibilities in academic matters. At Hampden-Sydney students have historically had a significant role in governing their own lives, the administration of the Honor Code being the longest-standing example.
According to Dr. Longin, although much can be gained by following standard best practices, the template for a board's by-laws must be tested against the culture and vision of the individual institution.
A subcommittee of the Board Affairs Committee under the leadership of M. Peebles Harrison '89 will draft the new by-laws by a process which President Christopher B. Howard declared will be "open, inclusive, transparent, and respectful. "
The recommendations of Mr. Harrison's sub-committee will be referred to Board Affairs Committee, then to the Board Executive Committee and then to the full Board. Mr. Allen anticipates a vote at the May 2013 board meeting.
Approval of new board by-laws will necessitate a review of the Faculty Handbook and Code of Student Conduct to assure that they are consistent with the new board by-laws. These reviews will be undertaken in close collaboration with faculty and student leadership.
Dr. Claire E. Deal, Elliott Associate Professor of Rhetoric, pointed out that although the by-law revision may be necessary for various legal and practical reasons, "What we all want is the best interest of the College."