Mason Board of Visitors “Ahead of the Curve” on new Virginia law

New Virginia bill to have little effect on Mason's Board of Visitors (photo courtesy of George Mason University)
New Virginia bill to have little effect on Mason's Board of Visitors (photo courtesy of George Mason University)

The Virginia Legislature passed a bill earlier this month that sets forth mandatory requirements for state university governing boards, including Mason’s Board of Visitors.

The bill, #1952, requires governing boards to be transparent in regards to board meetings. However, Rector Clemente, the head of Mason’s Board of Visitors, claims that these requirements are nothing new for them.

“We’ve been ahead of the curve on this,” Clemente said. “I’m proud to say that everything [the Virginia Legislature] has come up with, we have already come up with during my administration as rector.”

The bill requires that new members of university governing boards attend an educational training put on by State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV). These trainings inform new visitors of the responsibilities they will face as a board member and the details of board activities.

 Noticing a lack in Mason representation during his time as a visitor, Clemente started driving new visitors to the orientation once he took office as rector last year. The rector claims that, although Mason has not made anything mandatory in writing, this orientation has become a known responsibility for new members.

“If you’re going to be [on the BOV] you got to understand what's going on,” Clemente said. “So we got full participation from our board members. We don’t have any board members that have not been through the orientation.”

While the visitors are not directly trained by SCHEV on Mason specific issues, the chairman of each board committee conducts a separate educational meeting and invites the BOV to attend. Clemente gave the example of the finance committee giving a presentation where most of the visitors attended. This allows everyone to become more familiar with all aspects of the university.

Mason’s BOV is also no stranger to meeting and evaluating the university president. Clemente states that annual meetings have been occurring since before he was rector, around the time of their August retreat.

The discussion includes what the president’s goals are for the next year and what he plans to accomplish. A committee puts this information together and a secure survey is then sent to the board. The results, which are given percentages and weighted, correlate with how much the president will receive as his monetary bonus.

The BOV will be making some changes as a result of this bill, such as an annual executive summary of the BOV’s work that will be submitted to the Virginia General Assembly and the governor. However, the rector is pleased this new requirement has been added.

“To me,” said Clemente, “this is very similar to the report that the president or CEO of a public company gives to the shareholders each year.”

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