Regents plan changes

by Stacy Jo

It’s a little early for spring cleaning, but that’s exactly what the Board of Regents plan to do at their February meeting.
Beginning with board action on a resolution to dissolve the regents’ committee of the whole, members of the University’s highest governing body are looking to improve productivity by revising their committee structure.
The board’s chairman, vice chairwoman and University President Mark Yudof jointly created the resolution, said Greg Brown, the board’s acting executive director and corporate secretary. Copies of the resolution were sent out to regents for review on Jan. 8; the board will vote on it next month.
Members said they plan to dissolve the committee of the whole to rid themselves of unnecessary formality.
The entire board typically meets all day on the second morning of their monthly two-day meetings. In the mornings, the group is called the committee of the whole. In the afternoons, the same people meet as the Board the Regents.
“It seems like an extra step,” said Regent Maureen Reed. “It doesn’t really fit with the times.”
This change will not affect board operating procedures; discussion and voting methods will remain the same. As such, while clearing up needless clutter for regents, the change will go largely unnoticed.
If regents pass the resolution as expected, in March the board would meet in the morning as the Board of Regents, rather than the committee of the whole.
The more noticeable changes will arise in the coming months, however, when regents begin to discuss adjusting the overall committee structure.
Although regents have informally talked about realigning their committees for several months, Yudof introduced them to his conception of a more effective committee structure in November.
No action or discussion on this topic will take place at the February meetings, but chairpersons of each committee are now evaluating the president’s proposed changes.
The board consists of five central committees: audit; facilities; finance and operations; educational planning and policy; and faculty, staff, and student affairs — plus one special committee, litigation review.
Yudof’s plan proposes to merge finance and operations with the audit committee to form the finance and audit committee. Because both groups handle money matters, they would work well together, said Regent Bryan Neel, vice chairman for the finance committee. Boards of regents at other universities often have a single committee devoted to finance and audit, he said.
Subcommittees on investments and debt management would assist the proposed committee. This would allow the members to focus more on matters such as the budgeting process, Neel added.
In order to distinguish their specific purposes, two other committees would change, for the most part, in name only.
The educational planning and policy committee would change to the academic affairs committee, enforcing the group’s focus on academics, which includes reciprocity agreements and academic policies. The faculty, staff and student affairs committee would become the educational support and services committee. It would focus on non-academic issues such as salaries, benefits, tenure and parking for the University community.
The two remaining committees would not be restructured under Yudof’s plan.
Because of the significant number of construction projects currently underway or planned for the next few years, the facilities committee structure would remain the same. Administrators said changing the committee structure midstream would be unwise. The litigation review committee also would not change.
In looking at the most effective committee structure for the University, Yudof outlined the categories of other Big Ten universities’ boards of regents. The categories include a vast array of topics not addressed by specific committees at the University. These include agriculture, diversity, investments and athletics.