Baylor University is the latest academic institution to be in the limelight and not because of its great academics or superb outcomes for its students NOR apparently for instilling throughout its faculty, administration and board, the Christian values (aka, standards) on which it was founded.
As the latest media stories are reporting, the Baylor board saw a problem. It's management tolerated and perhaps enabled its football players to exercise behaviors inconsistent with stated standards. These behaviors did serious harm to others. One irony: the biggest deviant on-the-line for this failure, made his name prosecuting Bill Clinton for sex offenses.
To its credit, the board set-out to learn what was happening on its watch and they have learned and acted. But this and other academic institutions with similar failures raises for me additional governance-related questions. Has a board done its job merely by setting standards; selecting an individual who will ensure these standards are fully observed; and then, if it learns that its selected standards bearer fails, get a new standards-bearer? Does a governing board not have to do better to stay current with what's happening on its watch? Should a board not establish a set of reporting standards that doesn't leave it in the dark until it's too late? And, should a board include a review of the standards and progress against those standards in addition to the more traditional performance results?
I believe it has actually not been enough that the Baylor board has taken action, after-the-fact. This board, like most boards, has looked principally at financial and maybe academic performance and said, "our management was doing its job". But I pose that the Baylor board, was over the years likely very swept-up in the performance of its football team and looked aside at whether its student body was free from harm. Now of course, no student or faculty or manager has escaped harm, at least at the surface level of embarrassment and credibility although much more, especially for the directly injured survivors. Boards need to do better to keep their institutions free from doing harm, first and foremost. And, here is where the Baylor board failed.