[Foundation-l] [Announcement] update in board of trustees membership

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Tue Dec 18 19:18:38 UTC 2007

Delirium wrote:
> I'm also somewhat confused on this, and it seems out of keeping with 
> standard practice. For example, most private universities (in the US, 
> anyway) have a Board of Trustees that is ultimately responsible for 
> direction setting (and in theory can order or veto nearly anything), but 
> in practice they don't actually run the university. Instead, various 
> executive staff subordinate to the board do that. When specific 
> expertise is needed, such as someone who can administer a large campus, 
> or someone who can manage the financials, they're hired, e.g. as 
> President or as Treasurer. But they aren't part of the board, which is 
> ideally made up of people selected for their commitment to and 
> understanding of the overall mission, not for their specific technical 
> skills.
> The Foundation does seem to be going vaguely in that direction already, 
> for example with position of Executive Director, who has significant 
> executive authority but is not a member of the board. Is there a reason 
> that path isn't a reasonable one to continue on?
There is nothing wrong with this vision.  The big distinction between 
WMF and these universities is in their origins.  I would be hard pressed 
to think of a successful university that grew out of a grass roots 
movement. Most of these institutions began with an imposed governance 
structure fulfilling the needs of the state, the church, business or a 
major philanthropist.  In some respects we may have a philanthropical 
origin, with governance structures snuck in as an afterthought. 

On top of that we struggle with some tough philosophical problems about 
what is an encyclopedia, or the accessibility of knowledge and its 
ownership. These are intractable problems which established institutions 
have successfully avoided.


More information about the foundation-l mailing list