Q. Whose idea was it to remove student, alumni, and faculty seats from the Howard University Board of Trustees?

A. The decision to eliminate the Affiliate Trustee seats was made by the Board of Trustees. Board Chairman Laurence Morse has stated that the decision was based on an extensive review of the Board’s governance structure. We learned from Chairman Morse during a June 18, 2021 town hall that a consulting firm retained by Howard, but not associated with the university, produced a report that he implied had recommended the elimination of the Affiliate Trustee positions. Howard Alumni United has repeatedly requested a copy of the consultant’s report. The Board has yet to acknowledge those requests. Howard Alumni United believes that much more consideration should have gone into any decision to dismantle Howard’s hard fought legacy of shared governance.

Q. What reason was given for the change?

A. Chairman Morse indicated that there was a consensus amongst those interviewed by the consultant firm that the current Board governance structure is not working. It is not clear, however, what is meant by “not working.” Howard Alumni United believes that soliciting the opinions of a handful of stakeholders (reportedly 40 of them) was wholly inadequate and should not be used as a basis for the drastic decision to abolish Affiliate Trustees.

Q. What was the actual/factual reason for the change?

A. Chairman Morse asserted that the move to a unitary class of trustees would result in all trustees equally bearing the responsibility of acting in the best long-term interest of Howard University. This statement ignores the fact that all trustees, including Affiliate Trustees, are required to act in the best interest of Howard University. Board policy prohibits all trustees from acting on any matter in which they have a conflict of interest.

Q. What is the goal and mission of Howard Alumni United?

A. Howard Alumni United exists to respond to, challenge, and ultimately affect the reversal of the decision made by the Howard University Board of Trustees to eliminate its voting Affiliate Trustee positions: student trustee, faculty trustee, and alumni trustee. Howard Alumni United also seeks to establish and operate an alumni organization that will support and engage Howard University alumni in a way that is independent of, but not in contradiction to, the current university alumni infrastructure.

Q. Why is it important to have affiliate trustees on the board?

A. Shared governance has been a core value at Howard University for almost a century. Affiliate Trustees provide Howard University with immeasurable benefits, such as the following:

(a) the unique perspective of the students who are, in fact, the real reason for the existence of the University;

(b) the insights and expertise of the faculty who serve as the academic foundation of the University; and

(c) the life experiences of alumni who use their talents and resources to benefit Howard University and its tremendous legacy.

Q. Why is it important to have an alumni affiliate trustee when we have alumni representation on the Board?

A. Although alumni are members of the current Board of Trustees, that does not mean that alumni will always be members of the Board. If Affiliate Trustees are eliminated from the Board, there will be no procedures in place to guarantee alumni representation or promote diversity of viewpoints on the Board. The elimination of Affiliate Trustees means that the Board will solely choose its new members. Those new members will not reflect the diversity, values, and perspectives of alumni who, in an election, vote for those alumni who they believe will bring their perspectives and experience to advance overall interests of the university.

Q. What is the Howard University Alumni Association’s position?

A. It’s not clear where HUAA stands in regard to the elimination of the Affiliate Trustees. Some of HUAA’s top leadership has expressed strong opposition to the Board’s decision, while others have taken a wait-and-see approach. What is clear is that HUAA lacks the independence and autonomy to be a forceful and effective advocate and voice on behalf of Howard alumni.

Q. How can I get more information and become involved with HAU?

You can get involved with Howard Alumni United by filling out our contact sheet so that you can stay informed of the latest developments, participate in HAU meetings, and let us know how you would like to support the goals and mission of HAU.

In addition, ongoing information is available by joining the Howard Alumni United Facebook group and by following Howard Alumni United on Instagram and Twitter. We also urge you to sign the HAU petition to reinstate the Affiliate Trustees. HUAA operates essentially as a unit of the Department of Alumni Relations; for example, it does not have access to the alumni mailing list.

Q. How does the Board of Trustees have the authority to remove trustees?

A. The Board’s vote to eliminate the Affiliate Trustees was based on a recommendation of the Board’s Governance Committee, which does not include any Affiliate Trustees. The Governance Committee is charged with, among other things, evaluating and making recommendations regarding the Board’s structure, size and composition, and identifying best practices in governance. However, the lack of transparency and inclusion surrounding the decision to eliminate the Affiliate Trustees is both astounding and disturbing.

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