Monday, March 29, 2010

Back to work, Prexi

A big nonprofit commentator argues in today's Inside Higher Ed that college presidents shouldn't spend their time on boards but running their own institutions. While the institution should surely come first, I couldn't disagree more.

It's true, presidents are busy; for most, the job isn't just 40 hours a week. And surely there is an upper limit, if a college president were on 30 corporate boards, I would be concerned. There are only so many hours in a day, after all. But being on a few boards? How much time does that take? How does that compare time-wise to having a family or a hobby or even just taking a vacation?

It's typical, after all, for corporate CEOs to be on other boards, corporate and nonprofit alike. Think about that for a moment. Do you think the president of a Fortune 500 company is less busy with his or her job than a college president?

Let's be blunt. Your college wants corporate CEOs on its board of trustees. If those corporate CEOs have the time, so does your president. And if your president doesn't, either he/she has time management problems or has chosen to do something else instead. (There's nothing wrong with not choosing to be on corporate boards, either.)

Where I would be concerned is when we have what are called "interlocking directorates." An example of an interlock would be if your president is on the board of Corporation X, and Corporation X's CEO is on your college's board. This is a conflict of interest issue, and it's important for presidents to keep in mind. But that's not the problem that the commentator is interested in.

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