Unraveling the mystery: Rider University’s Board of Trustees and its new members

By Hailey Hensley

Many things about campus life are shrouded in mystery, and one of the largest of those, according to many students, is the Board of Trustees. As of July 1, seven new members began their three-year term on the Rider University Board of Trustees.

According to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla, those who become trustees must meet certain qualifications. 

“They [potential trustees] might have expertise in nonprofit administration, or accounting,  in business, in the liberal arts, or even government. We’re looking for a variety of expertise. But it’s not just the expertise we’re looking for. We want someone who’s going to be engaged at Rider as a trustee,” Stasolla said. 

Stasolla explained that there are several different ways in which someone might be identified as a candidate for the board of trustees.

“Current trustees may know people and identify them to us. We have University Advancement, who help with donor relations. They come across people in their work who they think might make a good board member,” Stasolla said. 

After someone is identified as a candidate for the Board of Trustees, all existing elected members are then allowed to vote on their membership during one of the board’s quarterly meetings, according to Stasolla. 

“The president is the only non-voting member, and they serve in an ex-officio capacity, which essentially means that they are entitled to that place on the committee because of their role in the organization, and no matter who served in that role [university president], they would be on the board,” said Stasolla. 

Stasolla made sure to clarify that being a member of the board is far more than just a title and that there are duties and responsibilities wrapped up in the position, which are not to be taken lightly. 

“Ultimately, it’s the board that takes responsibility for the institution….Being a trustee is work. It’s an important responsibility to everyone in the University,” Stasolla said. 

Stasolla noted that the Board of Trustees has “ultimate fiduciary responsibility” to the university, which includes evaluated the president and his administration, as well as a duty of care, loyalty and obedience according to Stasolla. 

Even with the immense responsibilities that come with being a trustee, Stasolla illuminated the fact that trustees are not involved in the everyday governance of the university. 

“The board does not handle the day-to-day management, that’s why they hire a president. And the president, in turn, has his administrative staff…,” Stasolla said.

Stasolla explained that the seven new members elected this summer is a slightly larger group than normal.

“We generally like it to be around 30 elected members. The board is working hard to bring the number of trustees up, and that’s why the class we elected was a bit larger this time,” Stasolla said.  

Junior film, television and radio major Wesley White expressed some confusion around the duties of the board and its members.

“Honestly, most of the time, I don’t even remember that we have a board of trustees. No one really talks about them or if they do it’s a brief statement. It’s never been explained who they are, what they do or why,” White said. 

Despite the confusion from students surrounding the board of trustees and what they do, Stasolla explained that trustees take their job incredibly seriously. 

“They really are a group of very caring, committed individuals, who also have a fiduciary responsibility to the university, which means they sometimes have to make very tough decisions. But they don’t make any decisions lightly,” she said. 

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