How does the Board of Trustees work?

November 07, 2023 Frantsiska Kutevska
How does the Board of Trustees work?

Have you ever gone through the Academic calendar, come across the entry

Board Meeting

and wondered “What is this? Why is it here?”

This is the Board of Trustees Meeting which is held three times throughout the Academic Year.

To understand the purpose of the meeting, we need to get to know the supervising body that meets. This is the Board of Trustees.

Why do we have a Board of Trustees?

AUBG is registered as a non-profit organization both in Bulgaria and in the United States. According to Bulgarian law and the university by-laws, AUBG must have a supervising body called a general assembly or in this case the Board of Trustees. We will call it “the Board” or “BoT” for short.

In fact, having a Board is not unique to AUBG. It is the standard way that universities are run.

What does the Board do?

Among its main goals are proposing and approving ideas about the development of the university, approving of the budget and initiating fundraising. The Board also approves the appointment of a new President, new Trustees, and University Council members.

The Board also approves five-year strategic plans. They serve as a reference to the Board for how AUBG should develop and whether it is on the right track or heading for the ditch. If it is the latter, the Board can adjust the plan so that we don’t go completely sideways.

“It’s not the operating piece of any organization but it’s guidance…advice and consent and sometimes even consulting,” says Michael D. Marvin, the Chair of the Board.

Who can become a Trustee?

Potential candidates can apply to the Board, or Trustees in office can propose new Trustees. Candidates, whether applying independently or nominated by current Trustees, are chosen for their ability to make a difference and their commitment and passion for the development of the university.

Marvin believes that a suitable candidate has several important qualities. They have experience in decision-making for big organizations and have access to a great many specialists in any area that AUBG may have an issue in or a desire to develop. They are willing to work on the Board for free because this is a voluntary position.

And one more thing.

“They have to want to make a difference,” says Marvin.

How long does a Trustee get to keep the job?

Trustees’ terms are designed to balance continuity with the infusion of new ideas. The aim is to nurture a Board that is both experienced and dynamic, ensuring a steady flow of fresh perspectives and innovations.

The Trustees can serve a maximum of six terms, three years each. The Chair can have two three-year terms at most. At the end of each term, a Trustee or the Chair should be re-elected to the Board.

According to Marvin, both extremes of too short and too long a term are not beneficial for AUBG.

“After a couple of years, you start to understand the institution better so that the ideas you suggest are more likely to be valuable,” says Marvin. He adds what would happen if the Board was comprised of the same members for a long time: “They would start to all think the same. That’s not the kind of vitality that you need on the Board…The chances of new ideas are diminished.”

When and how does the Board meet?

A Board meeting starts when the majority of the voting members are present. In special circumstances, such as amending the by-laws or discussing major transformations of the university, the attendance of two-thirds of voting members is required.

The Board does not discuss and decide everything at one go. The meeting consists of several sessions. The Trustees attend all of them while non-voting attendants are present in those related to their expertise.

“You invite people in at given times that add value to whatever the conversation is that you are talking about right there,” says Marvin.

There are also closed sessions attended by the Trustees only. According to Aelita Khusnutdinova, former Student Representative to the Board, the decision-making process is easier during the closed sessions. “They have the ability to talk with each other without being constantly interrupted by the common questions,” she says.

Who supervises the Board?

Although it may be seen as sitting at the top of the food chain, there is something or more like two things that come before the Board – Bulgarian law and AUBG by-laws. First, Bulgarian law establishes how a non-profit organization like AUBG must work. Then, in accordance with it, the by-laws are written.

If the Board violates these laws or any of its previous decisions, a member of any university body can appeal to the Board or the district court in Blagoevgrad.

Who helps the Board?

Most of the Trustees live and work away from AUBG. Still, there should be someone directly involved in campus life.

The President and the Committees bridge the distance between the Board and the university. They write reports and present them to the Board.

There are Standing Committees, which are permanent such as the Finance and Property Committee that makes the budget of the university and is responsible for its implementation. There are also Ad Hoc Committees that are formed when a particular issue needs to be resolved.

Students can also affect the issues that the Board discusses by filling out the survey that the Student Representative emails them several weeks before the meeting.

Based on all results and reports the Board receives, it decides the course of development for the university.