While multiple members of Ohio University's Board of Trustees have missed meeting throughout the last academic year, some officials say such absences are no cause for concern.
During the 2016-17 academic year, five trustees were listed as absent from board meetings in the minutes from the body’s agendas. Janetta King missed the January meeting, Janelle Coleman (Simmons) was absent from the August meeting, Cary Cooper and Diane Smullen were absent from the October meeting and Laura Brege was absent at the June meeting.
Trustees are asked to provide notice to the board chair when they cannot attend a meeting, but they do not have to provide a reason for their absences. The university also does not keep a record of trustee absences.
Each trustee is nominated by the governor.
Laws are in place in the Ohio Revised Code to make sure that personal circumstances do not outweigh a person’s responsibilities as a member of the Board of Trustees. The university follows Section 3.17 of the Ohio Revised Code, which states those who do not attend at least three-fifths of regular and special meetings in a two-year period forfeit their position.
Joseph McLaughlin, chair of Faculty Senate, feels students have little to be concerned about.
“Our Trustees are incredibly dedicated to the University and, in my experiences, are very conscientious with regard to their responsibilities,” he said in an email.
McLaughlin said, like students, trustees have multiple responsibilities including their personal health and family. Attending meetings cannot always be their first priority. Because of those outside commitments, both expected and unexpected, trustees occasionally have to miss a meeting.
McLaughlin is not the only one who feels a trustee’s work is not compromised by his or her physical presence. Brooke Mauro, a student trustee, said the board members all take their roles very seriously.
“The students, faculty and staff don't need to be concerned about absences at (meetings) as every Trustee takes their position and service on the Board very seriously,” Mauro said in an email.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, board members do not serve for financial gain and are only reimbursed for expenses, Emmalee Kalmbach, spokeswoman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said in an email.
Courteney Muhl, vice president of Ohio University Student Senate, said being a member of the Board of Trustees is important but that transparency is key to their efforts.
“I would sincerely hope that those who are noticing those absences are holding those members accountable because students who don’t check the attendance record wouldn’t know about that,” Muhl said. “Rather than say these absences are something that students should be concerned about, they should be more concerned about the transparency of the board.”
One way to improve that transparency is for students to reach out to the student trustees in the Student Senate office in Baker Center, Mauro said.
“If students are concerned about absences they're always welcome to express them to PJ and I in our office in Baker,” Mauro said in an email.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Cary Copper's name and misstated how trustees were nominated. The article has been updated with the most accurate information.