University constituency will consider bylaws changes

February 8, 2013
Larry Becker, Executive Director, University Relations
La Sierra University

The La Sierra University constituents will meet in a special session on February 21, to consider proposed changes to the university's bylaws. The recommendations address concerns about university governance issues identified by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), La Sierra's regional accrediting body.

In mid-2011, WASC issued the university a “formal notice of concern” about some governance issues. La Sierra's Board of Trustees immediately began to address WASC's stated concerns. Following a careful process of almost two years, the Articles and Bylaws Committee completed a set of draft bylaws revisions that that the Board of Trustees, on January 31, voted to recommend for approval. They have now been submitted to the university constituents for action. The proposed bylaws can be reviewed here.

Attorney Meredith Jobe, chair of the Articles and Bylaws Committee, wrote in a letter to the constituency, “In considering changes that we believe will respond to WASC's concerns, our committee was committed to maintaining the university's connection to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” (His full letter can be found here.)

The bylaws changes are intended to bring university governance practices into harmony with WASC's published guidelines, the expected standard for institutions of higher education in the western United States. WASC accreditation protects the availability of most grants and loans to La Sierra's students and makes it possible for them to go on to graduate study at other universities.

A key provision in the draft bylaws is that the chair of La Sierra University's Board of Trustees would be elected by the board itself and would be one of the four Pacific Union Conference officers who serve as ex officio members, rather than the chair automatically being the union president as is currently stipulated. This would allow the board to select its own chair, while ensuring that the chair would always be an officer of the Pacific Union. The only limitation would be that the chair of La Sierra's board could not serve concurrently as chair or vice chair of another university or college board.

This issue needed to be addressed because the Pacific Union, is unique in the North American Division, operates two institutions of higher education within its territory. The proposed bylaws would bring La Sierra University into alignment with all other Adventist colleges and universities outside the Pacific Union Conference with a chair focused on a single college or university.

The La Sierra University Board will continue to have among its members the Pacific Union Conference president, secretary, treasurer, vice president, director of education, and the presidents of the Southern and Southeastern California conferences and the Arizona Conference. (The presidents of the other four Pacific Union local conferences serve on the Pacific Union College board.)

The Articles and Bylaws Committee is also recommending changes to clarify the “board's role in setting basic university policy, while holding the president strictly accountable for the implementation of that policy,” Jobe wrote. This is in direct response to another WASC recommendation. The WASC policy on Independent Governing Boards can be reviewed here