The University Board of Regents is currently the only public university governing body in the state that operates without committees or chairs. Regent David Brandon (R-Ann Arbor) plans to propose changes to the bylaws at next week”s meeting to add chair, vice chair and committee positions.

Due to the vacancies in the presidential and provost positions, the University may be in need of some structure on the Board of Regents.

“They”re somewhat rudderless it would be difficult to pick a new president when he has this sort of unrest in front of him or her,” former regent Gertrude Huebner said.

Former regent Philip Power said he thinks, “it is probably wiser to elect a chair who has the confidence of the board than merely rotating the position arbitrarily.”

Powers said that in his experience, committees tend to make a board work better.

“They allow people who know a lot about something to consider the issue and speed things up,” Power said.

Former regent Deane Baker said he thinks these proposals are interesting, but not new.

“We did discuss it probably back in the mid “70s and it was brought up again some time in the late “”80s,” Baker said. “In both cases, the majority of regents said no.”

During Baker”s tenure, he said the creation of a chair would have changed the way voices were heard on the board.

“The basis for logic was that there are eight regents and the vote of each regent has the same value of any other regent. At least in the terms when we served, the Board didn”t want to lessen the input of each regent. There was really no politics involved,” he said.

At most large public universities, the governing boards have had some type of chair structure implemented for years.

At Michigan State University, the Board of Trustees has a rotating chair position and committees that members say works effectively.

“The chair is the lead spokesperson for the board, appoints the committees and of course works closely with the president,” said Don Nugent, chair of the Michigan State Board of Trustees. “I believe the system works really quite well. With a board made up of all elected leaders such as ours, the rotation system does serve a useful means of each having an opportunity regardless of political affiliation.”

University regents have not seen the need to create these types of positions until now.

“During the time I served, the attitude and spirit of the regents was a congenial one,” Baker said.

U.S. Tax Court Judge and former regent David Laro said he does not remember the board considering designating chairs or committees during the time he served.

“It seemed to work just fine,” Laro said. “One of the virtues of not designating chairs is that there is no hierarchy, and that kind of equality seemed to make for good harmony among members of the board.”

Huebner said she did not think a chairperson or committees were necessary when she was on the board. Current problems confronting members may warrant structural changes, she said.

“In my experience, committees usually slow down the process, but this board is facing a totally different political and economic situation,” Huebner said. “We had a board that never voted politically and never divided between Republicans and Democrats.”

Huebner said she thinks the current board is “a great board and very diversified.”

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