Board of Trustees

About the Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees

The University of Massachusetts is governed by a lay Board of Trustees. In an area as sensitive and important as higher education - involved in the search for truth and new knowledge, and charged with transmitting it - lay Trusteeship ensures that governance rests in the hands of the people and is free of arbitrary political interference and control from either inside or outside of the institution.

As ordinary citizens, lay Trustees represent various interests in the public at large on a non-partisan basis and are best able to reflect back to the University the immediate concerns of the people of the Commonwealth whom the University is dedicated to serve.

The Board of Trustees functions as a legislative body dealing mainly with questions of policy. The Board is not an administrative or management board. In certain rare instances, when required by the Massachusetts General Laws, it may function as an appeal body.

The Board establishes the general policies governing the University, but has delegated many powers to the President and, through the President, to campus administrators for day-to-day-operations. Appropriate University personnel are held strictly accountable by the Trustees for developing sound administrative policies.

Composition of the Board

The founding Board had fourteen appointed members and four ex officio members. Formerly, Trustees were appointed by the Legislature or the Board itself; currently, members are appointed by the Governor. The size of the Board has fluctuated between twelve and twenty-four members.

The current Board is composed of nineteen voting members and three ex officio non-voting members. Seventeen Board members are appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth; at least five of those appointed must be alumni of the University and one must be a representative of organized labor. The other two voting members are students.

Overall, the board has five student members, elected for one-year terms, from the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester campuses. Voting membership rotates among the campuses: two students are voting members and three others are ex officio non-voting members.

Trustee Fiduciary and Management Responsibilities

The Trustees are given broad responsibility to assure that University funds are spent properly, that the University exercises appropriate stewardship of University assets, and that operating results are positive. Most day-to-day responsibility to achieve these goals is delegated to the President and staff or to the Chancellors of the campuses through the President.

Setting of Policy - Setting policy is the Board's primary role. On a periodic basis the Trustees are asked to approve a new policy for the University. Examples include: non-unit salary and benefits, travel, and information technology business continuity. The Trustees set the policy, delegate to the President the responsibility of issuing University guidelines and require the campuses to develop procedures for policy and implementation.

Budget planning (capital and operating) - The Trustees approve the University's annual operating and capital budgets. These budgets reflect the plans of the University and the campuses to utilize state-appropriated funds, revenues from student charges and other enterprise charges, and grants and contracts from outside sources such as the Federal and State governments and private grantors.

Fiscal performance - The University Vice President and Treasurer, with the assistance of the University controller, auditor, and outside consultants, regularly report on the financial condition of the University. A set of five performance targets/indicators is the basis of University and campus fiscal reporting. These indicators are: operating margin, financial cushion, debt service to operations, endowment per student, and current ratio. Additionally, investment performance and other reports are provided.

Action items - The Trustees annually set mandatory student charges for the University. The Trustees also receive endowment gifts over a set amount, approve land acquisition and disposal and major building construction projects, the establishment of new revenue operations, and other significant financial transactions.

The Trustees are not involved in any personnel or procurement activity; no decision to hire (with the exception of President and Chancellors) or decision to buy goods and services is brought to the Trustees for action.

Academic Responsibilities of the Board

The Board of Trustees provides broad oversight on academic policy and student affairs. The Board votes on tenure and personnel matters for faculty, creates and revises academic and student policies, makes recommendations on new academic programs, and considers financial aid, public service activities, technology transfer issues, and admissions requirements. The Board receives periodic updates on academic restructuring and reallocation efforts, enrollment and admissions data, and cross-campus collaborations. The Board authorizes the President, and through him, the Chancellors, to manage the operations of the campuses.

The Board approves new academic degree programs. Following Board-approved procedures that govern the review and approval of proposals for new degree programs, and changes to existing programs, campuses work in collaboration with the President's Office to explain need and demand, relationship to the mission, resources, curriculum, and faculty expertise.

The Board takes action on named professorships. There are two categories of named professorships: endowed professors which require funding from a donor, and distinguished professors which are honorific. Each requires Board action.

The Board votes on individual campus Student Codes of Conduct. Codes of Conduct are regulations regarding standards of conduct and scholarship that protect the educational purpose of the institution and provide for the orderly conduct of its activities. Students who violate these become subject to disciplinary action, according to established procedures. Similarly, the Board approves student government constitutions and faculty governance policies.

The Board enacts strategic priorities for the University in the areas of teaching, research, and services, and determines, along with the President, the institutional mission statement.

From time to time, the Board enacts policies related to academic matters in order to establish standards of criteria that should be followed by all campuses. Examples include the Policy on Centers and Institutes, the Undergraduate Admissions Policy, and the Policy on the Awarding of Honorary Degrees. The Board monitors the academic performance of the University through a number of routine reports, including the Annual Indicators of the University Performance Measurement System, the fall report on Enrollment and Admissions, and annual reports on the results of the policy on Academic Quality Assessment and Development, a cyclical review of every academic department in the University.

Contact Information

UMass Board of Trustees
225 Franklin St., 33rd Floor
Boston, MA 02110
617 287-7005