AIR in Motion

From January 17 to February 1, 2023, AIR members voted on  recommended language changes to the AIR Constitution and Bylaws. The vote passed, resulting in amended Constitution and Bylaws.

Please stay tuned to this website for next steps and implementation plans.

Background

Students are changing. Higher education is changing. Institutional research is changing. So must AIR.

After an extensive period of discernment and consideration of feedback from members, the AIR Board of Directors approved a set of recommended changes to the AIR Constitution and Bylaws—AIR’s governing documents—to help the organization grow and better serve its members and stakeholders by:

  • Diversifying leadership
  • Providing continuity
  • Developing an even more productive AIR Board of Directors and Nominations & Elections Committee (NEC)

AIR has been built by the hard work and dedication of volunteers. We have grown due to the strong foundation they laid. As the organization and higher education continue to evolve, the Board of Directors strongly believes these changes will bolster the ability of future Boards to govern and oversee the operations of the association.

The changes, which were approved by the Board of Directors and subsequently by over 90% of voting members, were recommended to address the following:

  • According to past leaders, it takes three years to really become familiar with AIR’s governance structure, Policy Governance.
  • Institutional memory is held with the staff, not the Board, even when it comes to decisions made by the Board.
  • A very small percentage of the membership actually vote in Board elections.
  • Members may not know the characteristics that make for a strong leader of the AIR Board.
  • A third of the Board turns over each year—including the Board leader—which means retrenching at the start of each year, eroding time to agree upon and move an agenda forward.
  • The NEC is chaired by someone who may have never served on it.
  • NEC turnover is every two years, making it even harder to maintain processes and consistency.

Timeline | Top

The following is a timeline of the actions leading directly to the recently-passed amendments to the AIR Constitution and Bylaws. Additionally, AIR has grown and evolved from its founding through the guidance and contributions of countless past members and leaders. Learn more about AIR’s rich history through The Association for Institutional Research: The First 50 Years.

  • 2011-2012: AIR adopted Policy Governance procedurally, but largely maintained Board structure; standing committees focused on “means” are dissolved.
  • Fall 2018: An ad hoc committee of past AIR Presidents discussed the lack of continuity, Policy Governance facility, and Board structure. They developed a set of recommendations that were presented to the Board for consideration in February 2019. The Board did not act on any large-scale changes at that time.
  • Spring 2020: The Board convened a Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee to review the 2019 recommendations and further discuss ways to enhance Board continuity.
  • Spring 2021: The Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee presented updated recommendations to the Board for review and feedback.
  • Fall 2021: The Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee presented subsequently to the Board to address initial feedback and concerns.
  • Winter 2022: The Subcommittee drafted a set of recommendations that were presented as individual motions to the full Board. Full detail on the motions can be found in the December 13, 2021, January 10, 2022 and February 14, 2022 Board minutes.
  • JuneSeptember 2022: Comment Period
    AIR members shared feedback and input on the proposed changes.
  • October 3, 2022: Coffee Chat
    AIR Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee hosted a coffee chat to discuss proposed strategies for increasing Board continuity and accountability to better serve association members and stakeholders and responded to member feedback. A recording of the coffee chat is available.
  • OctoberNovember 2022: Committee Incorporates Feedback
    The Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee considered all feedback and finalized the proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws.
  • November 2022: Board of Directors reviewed, discussed, and voted to approve the proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws
  • December 16, 2022: Approved Language Published
    The proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws (approved by the Board of Directors) published on the AIR website at least 30 days prior to voting.
  • January 17–February 1, 2023: Voting
    AIR members vote on the recommended language changes to the Constitution and Bylaws.
  • February 2, 2023: Vote Outcome
    The general membership vote to amend AIR’s Constitution and Bylaws passed.

Committee | Top

The Board Structure for Accountability and Effectiveness Ad Hoc Subcommittee consists of:

  • Heather Kelly, Chair
  • Elizabeth Lee
  • Mary Lelik
  • Junelyn Peeples
  • Ellen Peters
  • Michael Urmeneta
  • Karen Webber
  • Christine Keller

FAQ | Top

Proposed Governance Changes FAQ

  • What’s the difference between a Board Chair and a President?

    In short, a Board Chair leads the Board; a President leads the organization operations.

    When AIR began, there was no staff; in effect, an all-volunteer organization where the President led both the Board and the work of the organization. AIR has evolved and now has a staff of almost 20, including a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who leads the work of the organization.

    As AIR has grown, the roles of the CEO and the Board have shifted. The Board’s role is one of vision, oversight, and representation. The role of the CEO is to enact and be accountable for the vision. For example, the Board is no longer responsible for developing training and professional development opportunities for institutional researchers. The CEO is responsible for ensuring that there is appropriate training and professional development opportunities, and the Board monitors the CEO. With the roles of the CEO and the Board more clearly delineated, the titles of those roles should also evolve to more standard language.

    Source: https://www.nonprofitissues.com/to-the-point/what-difference-between-board-chair-vice-chair-or-board-president-vice-president

  • Why elect a leader from within the Board/NEC?

    The work of the Board depends heavily on a leader who is well versed in Policy Governance and who has a deep understanding of the organization. Both of these take time. Those who are new to Policy Governance and have served on the Board report that it takes until the third year on the Board to really feel a complete grasp of Policy Governance and the institutional history. Those who are elected to serve on the Board have a good sense of who among them has the knowledge and skills to successfully lead them. This model of electing a Chair from among the Board is standard practice for organizations with a full professional staff.

    Source: https://www.tecker.com/elected-or-appointed-board-chair/:

    • “Elected Board chairs tend to view their role as more political than do appointed board chairs. The elected chair sees the members as a constituency to be served. …. In an association, however, this is actually one of the roles of Board members as a group... Sometimes misguided chairs elected by the membership believe they have been invested with a political authority by vote of the membership that trumps the authority of the Board. …
    • Appointed chairs tend to see their role as facilitating the effective operation of the Board. They tend to be more sensitive to the Board’s legal responsibilities. They tend to see their role as facilitating the Board making decisions that are in the best interests of the not-for-profit corporation.”

    Source: https://www.asaecenter.org/resources/articles/an_magazine/2016/marchapril/who-should-choose-your-volunteer-leaders:

    • “Board selection of officers has important advantages… You are less likely to be dealing with somebody winning out of a popularity contest,” noting that board members know their colleagues' strengths and weaknesses best.
  • Doesn’t the Board/NEC get trained in Policy Governance?

    Yes, but like many orientations, it is in the practice of the work that it becomes clear. In theory, it all makes sense, but in practice, the nuances blaze, and stymie the progress of the Board. In addition, with a third of the Board turning over each year, it can take several months for the Board (meeting monthly) to gain traction. A Board leader who is elected from within and who can serve for more than one year could smooth out that transition so that the orientation isn’t the only mechanism for continuity, knowledge transfer and skill development.

  • Won’t that reduce the voice of the members?

    The members of AIR will continue to elect the individuals who serve on the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is collectively responsible for the governance and oversight of the association. The proposed change allows a Board member to learn how the Board functions and understand the skills needed to lead the Board before considering the role of Board chair. When electing Board members, AIR members will consider whether that individual could potentially serve as Board chair.

    In addition, our current approach is a mismatch with policy governance, in which the Board prioritizes the vision and strategy for the association, leaving the tactical and transactional work to the AIR staff. The current practice too often leaves institutional memory in the hands of the Executive Office, many of whom are long serving, in comparison to the three year term of most Board members. The interpretation of that history is not with the Board, but with the staff. Electing a leader from within the Board and permitting two consecutive terms will allow more institutional history to be retained by the Board. The current structure creates a significant reliance on the Executive Director/CEO and other staff.

  • Will the change be meaningful and purposeful?

    The advantages of Board election of officers include:

    • Opportunity to cultivate those who may/will be elected as leaders;
    • Can be tied to Board self- assessment: what skills/characteristics will best serve the Board;
    • Enhances sense of the full Board being accountable to members, and the Chair being accountable to the full Board; and
    • In most states, preserves course of action for removal in case of egregious misconduct.

    The Board speaks as one voice, everyone is co-equal. All Board members are leaders of the Association. All Board members are governing the Association. The Board Chair is delegated authority to guide governance of the Board. Electing the Board Chair from within the Board is consistent with the “one voice” principle of co-equals. The ability to select a capable Board chair is better suited to the Board who has specific knowledge and experience as to who might be best to lead the Board’s charge.

  • How will this impact diversity, inclusion, equity and representation?

    It will provide greater opportunity. Currently, the opportunity for a member to serve as the leader of the Board is limited to the two people who end up on the ballot. If the Board has the opportunity to select their leader, there will be eight Board members (all of whom will have been elected by the membership) from which to choose. It actually provides more opportunity for representation in leadership.

  • How do these changes compare to other associations?

    This change would reflect the board structure of many of our higher education institutions. For the most part, at our colleges and universities, the Chairs of our Boards are elected by the Board. In addition, it is a practice for EDUCAUSE, and for the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS).

    In addition, this change would set us apart from regional and state IR associations that do not use policy governance and whose leadership organize and plan conference and events.

    Note: AIR elections reflect a minority vote of our membership each year. On average, the voting response rate is less than 20% of our membership.

  • Will these proposed changes limit opportunities to get involved with the association?

    Member volunteer opportunities will continue with these proposed revisions. Visit airweb.org/volunteer to learn more about various ways you can volunteer.

  • Will the Board Vice Chair automatically become the Board Chair?

    No. Both the Board Chair and Board Vice Chair will be elected from within the Board members-at-large. There will not be an automatic succession from Vice Chair to Chair.

  • What are the proposed guidelines for serving consecutive 3-year terms as a Board member?

    Consecutive terms with term limits provide opportunities for fresh voices while at the same time allowing for continuity.  A sitting Board member interested in a consecutive term would need to be chosen as a candidate by the NEC and be re-elected by the AIR membership. A second term consecutive term is not automatic.

  • What is the role of the Board liaison on the NEC?

    The Board liaison to the NEC is a board member appointed by the Board of Directors from among its current members to serve as the formal connection between the Board and the NEC. In this role, the Board liaison will keep other Board members apprised of NEC activities and discussion but will not be eligible to serve as the leader of the NEC in the role of chair.

  • Does changing the title from Board President to Board Chair impact the role of the Executive Director?

    No. The role of the Executive Director/CEO will remain the same and she will continue to lead Association operations and report to the Board of Directors as stipulated in the AIR governance policies.

  • What happens if no Board member or NEC committee member wants to serve in the leadership role?

    A requirement for all the candidates for Board member-at-large or NEC committee member will be a willingness to serve in a leadership role if they are elected within their respective group.