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Proposed Board Amendments to Change the Polity

Results of the Board of Visitors and Governors Polity Vote

Download a PDF of the revised Polity.

The following information was sent June 17, 2016 on behalf of the deans of the college.

Dear St. John’s faculty, staff, students, alumni,

Today the Board of Visitors and Governors approved changes to the Polity concerning the governance structure of the St. John’s College. After several weeks of vigorous, spirited discussion in all parts of the St. John’s community—faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and board members—the board unanimously has adopted a plan that is endorsed by the deans and presidents and takes into consideration the concerns of faculty and alumni.

The plan retains two campus presidents: one of them will also serve as college-wide president overseeing college-wide affairs; the other will be imbued with authority over affairs on his or her campus. Both presidents will report directly to the board.

Mr. Mark Roosevelt, president of Santa Fe, will serve as our first college-wide president. Mr. Chris Nelson will continue as Annapolis president, and his successor will do the same. The college-wide presidency will have a term of up to four years.

All college-wide officers and associates will report to the college-wide president. They will also be responsible to their campus president on local needs: for example, communications support for campus-specific programs, or supporting our partnerships with local friends groups.

The college-wide president will form a cabinet, including his or her fellow president, the deans, and the chief financial officer, which will be responsible for budget approval and financial oversight, among other duties.

We are pleased with this outcome for multiple reasons.

The Polity revisions respect our strong traditions of faculty governance. After extensive dialogue the board and faculty leadership arrived at an arrangement that improves administrative accountability while honoring faculty supervision of the curriculum. It guarantees faculty on both campuses direct access to presidents with executive powers, and real influence over the broadest range of decisions affecting the Program. We have been encouraged, too, by the improved communications between faculty leadership and the board leading up to the present meeting. We feel confident that under this model the presidents, deans, and board will be able to work together even more productively going forward.

St. John’s distinctive two-campus nature makes it difficult to adopt for it conventional models of higher education governance. Finding an appropriate solution for these times required discussion and reflection. Some of the public debates were difficult, even heated. Ultimately, we arrived at a solution through the respectful exchange of opinions. The new plan will strengthen our operational and financial health while ensuring the integrity of the Program. As faculty leaders we applaud that balance and are now eager to turn to the urgent work ahead.

On behalf of the college, the three of us thank all who contributed to a good outcome.

Deans Pamela Kraus, Matthew Davis, Joseph Macfarland

Background

The St. John’s College Board of Visitors and Governors held a special meeting in May to consider several new budget proposals for the coming year, as well as proposed changes to college governance that would accompany the consolidation of college-wide administrative functions. The latter changes required amendments to the college Polity, which will only take effect after a 30-day comment period, via a vote at the board meeting on June 17 in Annapolis.

College leadership has been working to reduce operating deficits by cutting operating expenses, increasing revenue, and streamlining college-wide functions, including finance, development, communications, and admissions. Many of those consolidations have already been completed, and several more will be implemented in the coming weeks and months.

The secretary of the board drafted the amendments to the Polity. The Polity itself guarantees faculty a 30-day comment period on any proposed amendments. Recognizing that others may also wish to share their opinions, the board welcomed comments from all members of the St. John’s community, including staff, students, and alumni.