Boards and Institutional Diversity: Missed Opportunities, Points of Leverage

November 2016
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Since the financial crisis of 2008, board agendas have been dominated by financial and enrollment concerns. Yet boards can also play a key role in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.


Given the many points of leverage they can apply, boards are uniquely positioned to advance change in ways other institutional stakeholders cannot. This paper explores how boards and institutional leaders can forge a tighter link between governance and campus diversity, one that leads to positive progress on a difficult and nuanced set of issues.  

Key Insights
Boards need to work with institutional leaders to address the challenges of diversity, equity and inclusion. Conversations about diversity often call for action by university administrators, faculty and students, but not by the board.
Corporate and nonprofit boards already address many issues affected by diversity, including organizational performance, risk and compliance, financial well-being, and strategic focus and mission.
Most boards are not very diverse themselves, presenting a hurdle when advancing a campus diversity agenda.
Too often boards lack a sophisticated understanding of student issues, do not use data and dashboards well, and are not seen by stakeholders as having the legitimacy necessary to promote diversity.
Board-level strategies to advance campus diversity include setting goals, anticipating conflicts and holding the president accountable.

The authors based their report on personal observations and a detailed examination of the literature on board governance and campus diversity.