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New Board Chair and Bylaw Changes Mark Special Constituency Session and Board Meeting at Pacific Union College


Bradford Newton, the executive secretary of the Pacific Union Conference, was   elected chair of the Pacific Union College board April 1,  at a Board meeting following a special Constituency session called to make changes in the college’s bylaws. He replaces Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union who has served as the board chair for both Pacific Union College and La Sierra University.

At the special constituency session the changes voted to the bylaws included who is eligible to be chairman of the Board of Trustees. The revised bylaws stipulate that neither the chair nor the vice chair may be the chair or vice chair of the board of any other accredited institution of higher education. This change addresses the concern of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accrediting agency about having the president of the Pacific Union Conference serving as chair of both Pacific Union College and La Sierra University.

The new bylaws specify that, “The Board shall, in consultation with the officers of the Pacific Union Conference, elect the chair to be one of these Pacific Union Conference officers: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer.”

A second significant change in the bylaws stipulated that the role of disposing of  all or substantially all of the corporate assets of the college is now a function of the constituency rather than the Board. For some, this change was not quite enough. An amendment to add the wording “a significant portion of the assets” could not be disposed of without the approval of the constituency generated some discussion, but was finally sent back to the committee for review. The college attorney pointed out that such an amendment was not appropriate at a specially called session. Consideration of the revised wording could be brought back to the constituency when it meets next in May of 2015.

By then, the college may have completed a sale of a portion of its land. In a separate report to the constituency, President Heather Knight explained the college’s plan thusly: “the PUC Board of Trustees has chosen to monetize some select assets, while remaining committed to preserving the large percentage of the property that is so essential to the character of the College. Out of its 1,860-plus acres of land holdings, PUC is committed to keeping over two-thirds of its property. This can only be achieved through the careful stewardship and monetizing of other select land holdings, particularly the smaller, agriculturally-zoned area east of the airport.  And while the size of the property being evaluated for sale is small, the potential benefits to the College are considerable: the dramatic growth of the endowment to a historic amount, the restriction of 100% of net proceeds to our endowment, and the ability of the College to preserve and protect its forest for the future.”

The new bylaws also address the responsibilities of the Board and the President. They stipulate that  the Board’s responsibilities include the recruiting and hiring of the college president, vice president for academic administration, and the vice president for financial administration. That was followed by a clarification of the president’s responsibility to “appoint, promote, direct, discipline, reassign, and discontinue vice presidents, deans, administrative department directors, academic department chairs, and faculty members, in accordance with policies and procedures for approvals established by the Board.” Given that the faculty handbook with its policies and procedures is approved by the Board, this provision would seem to be formalizing what is current practice.  The wording of the bylaw does give a CEO tone to the role of the president.

In the college’s press release announcing the selection of Newton as Board chair, it noted that he recently taught courses for PUC’s department of religion, and he serves on the College’s Retention in Adventism Committee. His two children and daughter-in-law graduated from Pacific Union College and his wife grew up in the PUC community where her father, John Christian, served on the college faculty.

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