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Higher Education Committee Advances Accountability Measure Legislation would require training for public college and university trustees

BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Joint Committee on Higher Education advanced legislation that would require training for public college and university boards of trustees. The bill, filed by the Inspector General, would help ensure that trustees understand their legal, fiduciary and ethical obligations under the law.

Specifically, the legislation requires the Department of Higher Education, in consultation with the Inspector General, to develop a training program on topics critical to the proper oversight of a public institution of higher education. Relevant topics may include fraud prevention, the open meeting law, fiduciary responsibilities, ethics procurement and state finance law. Trustees would be required to complete the training within six months of being appointed and then every two years thereafter.

“It’s important that the stewards of our public higher education institutions are equipped with the appropriate tools and training needed to carry out their duties in a responsible manner,” said Senator Moore, who serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee. “Hardworking students and families should have confidence in the level of transparency and accountability at their college or university. It’s also important to ensure that checks and balances are in place to prevent against inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

“This legislation will help to protect universities and colleges from fraud, waste and abuse and will assist in ensuring accountability, transparency and reliability in a system that serves to educate our children,” said Inspector General Glenn Cunha.

“We appreciate the contributions of the trustees of our colleges and universities and their oversight of these institutions,” said House Chair of the Joint Committee, Representative John W. Scibak (D-South Hadley). “At the same time, we have an obligation to provide these hardworking volunteers with the tools necessary to fulfill their legal, ethical and fiduciary obligations. This legislation will help to ensure that our public higher education institutions operate in a sound and efficient manner, using their resources wisely, and continuing to provide high quality education for all students.”

The legislation was filed in direct response to a widely-reported situation in 2015 at Westfield State University where the University president was found to have inappropriately spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of Westfield State funds on lavish trips and meals. Subsequent investigations revealed a lack of proper oversight by the University’s board of trustees as a contributing factor that led to the improper expenses.

To continue tracking the bill, H.12, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.

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