THE BOARD UNDERSTANDS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FACULTY; THE FACULTY RESPECT THE PRIORITIES OF THE BOARD
The faculty have traditionally, and more or universally, among administrators as well as faculty, viewed the Board of Visitors as lacking the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding for the job.
In a conversation almost thirty years ago, Gill Cell had explained to me that the quality of a university depends on its faculty, and only its faculty. Later in that conversation, I asked Gill why she seemed to skeptical of Board authority. She replied,
"The Board does not understand faculty, and they do not understand the importance of faculty."
Given Gill what had just told me about faculty's significance at the university, these remarks revealed a great deal. The attitude they express lines up with the sentiments of the faculty, who instinctively considered the Board to be a threat and not an ally, as well as unqualified to be in a position of authority over a university.
My response is two-fold. First, what does it matter if the Board do not "understand the faculty"? Do faculty have a good understanding of faculty? And if a proper understanding of the faculty is possible, does the Board need to make use of that understanding to do their job? One must look at what they are tasked to do.
Second, William & Mary's Board does, clearly, understand the importance of the faculty. They hold discussions that reveal they believe the faculty are very important. When the issue of salaries comes up, the Board will point out "the importance of the faculty," and the views they defend turn out to be identical to Gill's. Especially at William & Mary. The Board has proven that they understand the importance of the faculty. I can tell you one story from a decade ago that makes the point.
Coming out of the recession of 2008-2009, public universities in Virginia faced cuts in state funding and were forced to increase tuition rates. In-state tuition at most Virginia schools was modest: for example, in 2010, the yearly tuition bill was about $11,000.
In 2009, Bob McDonnell, a Republican, won the race for governor. He was a moderate as Republicans go. In his inaugural address, he stated, "Government must set priorities, encourage cost-savings and frugality, fund core functions well, set the right climate for job creation and economic growth, and then get out of the way."
As it turned out, McDonnell was allergic to tuition hikes at the public colleges. In December 2010, Virginia Commonwealth University announced it was raising its tuition from