Constituency delegates approved a series of changes to La Sierra University’s bylaws during a special meeting held on the campus on May 23. The revised bylaws document passed by a vote of 69-10, or 87 percent, well beyond the two-thirds vote required for passage. The bylaws revisions provide refinement to La Sierra University’s governance, while addressing some concerns about the university’s bylaws expressed since 1996 by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, La Sierra’s regional accrediting agency.
This follows an information session held on Feb. 21 in which constituents offered feedback and suggestions on the proposed bylaws revisions.
“We all need to appreciate the difficult task that our Articles and Bylaws Committee members have had to complete,” said Ricardo Graham, Pacific Union president and current La Sierra University board chair. “During their nearly two years of study and review, committee members have listened to constituency delegate feedback, and have used care to ensure the revised bylaws meet current governance needs while reinforcing La Sierra University’s clear and unequivocal connection to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its mission and philosophy.”
The significant bylaws changes fall into two main areas:
Delegates approved bylaws changes that require, in consultation with Pacific Union officers, La Sierra University’s board chair to be elected by the board itself from one of the four ex officio member Pacific Union officers, rather than automatically being the union president. This change allows the trustees to select their own chair, while simultaneously ensuring that the chair will always be an officer of the Pacific Union. An additional key limitation would be that neither the chair or vice chair of La Sierra’s board can serve concurrently as chair or vice chair of another university or college board. This resolves Pacific Union’s unique issue in its operation of two institutions of higher education. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College both faced questions from the accrediting agency on this issue that are not faced by institutions in the rest of the North American Division.
Since 1990, La Sierra’s board membership has included nine ex officio members (the Pacific Union president, secretary, treasurer and vice president; the Pacific Union education director; the presidents of the Arizona, Southeastern California, and Southern California conferences; and the University president); and 14 members elected by the constituency. No change in that composition was considered during this process. Additionally, the revised bylaws require all 14 elected trustees be members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Previously one elected trustee could be from outside the Church.
The approved bylaws charge the Board of Trustees with ensuring that the mission and major policies of the university reflect the goals and objectives of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Other changes recognize the limitations of expecting a board to manage day-to-day details of a complex institution.
The board will continue to appoint the president, provost and vice president for financial administration, and grant tenure to members of the faculty. This allows the board to have direct interaction with the administrative, academic, and financial leaders of the university. It allows trustees to maintain financial oversight of the university, and to establish the policies necessary to university governance. The president is identified as the university officer accountable for implementing the board’s broad policies into daily operations.
Trustees will also focus on providing strategic vision for the university, establishing governing policies and protecting the university’s assets. The full bylaws document identifies 18 specific governance functions retained by the trustees under the revised bylaws. The full document will be posted on the university website after the bylaws committee completes editorial changes voted by the delegates.
“God’s Spirit was evident throughout the session,” Graham said. “I appreciated how delegates cared so much about these issues, as demonstrated through the robust discussion and their insightful questions.
“I am optimistic about La Sierra University’s future,” Graham concluded. “The board, administration, and faculty are committed to building this outstanding institution of higher education and developing the Christian commitment of every student.”