One sign of the low esteem to which trustees’ governance has fallen is the Steven Salaita affair. This summer the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rescinded an offer to Salaita to join the university’s American Indian Program. The offer still awaited final approval by the board of trustees, but the professor resigned from his job at Virginia Tech, his wife resigned from her job, and the family began packing up to move to Illinois.
As the Chronicle of Higher Education education said in its latest article on the subject: “Typically, those decisions are considered a rubber stamp.”
Going beyond the specifics of whether Salaita had a contract or not (possibly to be decided by a court), there’s a question: Should the board of trustees have the power to approve or deny faculty selection? And if it’s just a rubber stamp—a legal technicality—why even bother?