Rather than inhabit a magical world of unicorns, lollipops, and rainbows, it might befit some to consider certain brute facts about our situation (and the world we actually inhabit). These are the facts (and NOT my pathetic interpretations):
- The "faculty trustee" (hereafter, FT) has no job description. There are no words whatsoever devoted to his position and tasks (beyond his election and term of office). Among those non-existent words are NOT to be found "shall represent the best interests of the faculty from whence he is elected." Nationally (or internationally), there is no consensus about -- and, hence, no tradition of practice to refer to concerning -- the status and function of FTs: there is only disarray and dispute (although much better models and procedures are available).
- The FT is a creature of law and, subsequently, neutered by law. The FT does not appear in the Handbook and is not part of "shared governance" (which is so broken on this campus as to be a laughable farce anyway). The FT is an honorary member of the Faculty Senate and may sit on the Executive Committee (should he choose to endure that highly peculiar form of torture); however, he has no special prerogatives with, insight on, or access to the administration or his fellow Trustees.
- Given 1. and 2., the FT has no enumerated powers and no work to do: he has no vote and no ability to, for instance, initiate motions or insert agenda items. He receives scant information beyond that available in the materials made available to the public and is explicitly prohibited from knowing the true story, being prevented from even hearing about Executive Sessions of the BOT by, say, an edited summary. He merely attends about 5 public meetings, 1 "retreat", and those committees meetings he can make (which are simply dress rehearsals for the public meetings).
- BOTs are not legislatures and, therefore, are no deliberative body: there is very little discussion (and no debate whatsoever) concerning issues up for vote. The "power bloc" of these BOTs are informed in advance about how they are to vote (or otherwise proceed) by Presidents. Indeed, wily CEOs use these boards simply as a front group for their own internal agenda: consensus (such as it is) is indeed "manufactured" through a variety of techniques (including misleading and simplistic Power Point presentations). The same people say the same things over and over and over again.
- Given 1., 2., and 3., the FT is no agent and serves a purely ceremonial function (should he, for example, be deluded into participating in voice votes). He never consents and only rarely advises: he is an informal advisor and that only insofar as "advice" is sought. When this latter "advice" is sought, it is never in a situation that would allow reflection, discussion or deliberation: it is invariably off-the-cuff and of the form "What would the faculty think of that?" (and what would they "think" indeed!). Inevitably, the FT speaks only of and for himself.
- Given all of the above, if the FT tries to "act," he will improvise, probably bungle, and, thereby, invite the active contempt, scorn, and censure of his fellow "Trustees," who themselves know little to nothing about higher education, being instead "players" on a very regional stage: they are, after all, just political appointees of the sitting Governor to whom they are beholden (if of the same party) or somehow connected (if of the opposing party). They, like the Governor, are mostly concerned about themselves and their own future; should they be well-intentioned and try to "do good," disaster will swiftly ensue.
Consequently, the only course of action is to elect someone presentable and affable (but no boob or cheerleader), who has nothing better to do with their time and who would enjoy being carried and directed by a current neither of his design nor making. He must "float" effortlessly (and never swim against the tide). He has no bully pulpit and no moral force in a milieu that promotes "success" and despises true culture.
We have real problems to address: the "faculty trustee" is, I humbly submit, not to be numbered among those top issues, however. If someone wonders "What do you know about it?", I should respond: "I tried and I failed."