Trusted and Trained: Why Some States Are Considering Legislation to Make Board Member Training Mandatory

In recent years, there’s been discussion in almost every sector about how well trained and prepared board members actually are in carrying out their duties. A trend has emerged in higher ed that any organization with a board may want to monitor. This year (as of July) legislatures in two states had considered bills mandating training for trustees or university board members. And others may follow suit.

The primary concern is summed up by the question reporter Kellie Woodhouse posed in her article for Inside Higher Ed, “How well do they know how to do their jobs?” Certainly associations have expressed similar concern about how well-equipped their board members are to provide strategic leadership, and many have invested in additional training online or face-to-face with an outside facilitator.

However, there are some who don’t feel in-house training efforts are sufficient. The state legislature in Texas, for example, passed a bill mandating training in part because some felt “trustees have repeatedly overreached their powers.”

Senator Judith Zaffirini, who authored the bill, said, “Some of the newly appointed regents didn’t understand their roles. When they were appointed, they assumed that they were going to be the CEO.”

Herein lies another concern for some associations. They want to be sure that there’s a bright line between staff roles and volunteer leadership roles.

As this issue of mandated board member training in higher ed continues to evolve, it’s worth associations noting this activity and its potential to affect how current training efforts for nonprofit boards are perceived. Do you trust your board member training? It’s never a bad idea to re-evaluate what you’re doing in this area and how accountable you’re making members of your board for participating in training.