Task force on university-affiliated foundation relationships issues recommendations

A task force charged with making recommendations to ensure relationships between The University of Texas System, UT institutions and affiliated foundations are appropriately structured and serve as a national model for public universities made its final report to the Board of Regents Thursday.

“The affiliated foundations provide a tremendous philanthropic base for the UT System and UT institutions, and we are profoundly grateful for their support,” said Regent Brenda Pejovich, chair of the Advisory Task Force on Best Practices Regarding University-Affiliated Foundation Relationships.. 

The task force was formed in November 2012, and over the course of 12 meetings, members interviewed university presidents and foundation leaders. All institution presidents were asked to share a draft report with their affiliated foundations and provide comment. The state auditor’s office also provided feedback.

As a result, the task force issued five recommendations that address the university-foundation relationship, responsibilities of the universities, and practices for foundation consideration:

  • Each UT System institution and affiliated foundation should review or develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to clearly define their relationship and assure alignment of missions. A standard MOU template will be provided to universities and affiliated foundations to negotiate and execute by May 2014.
  • Universities and their affiliated foundation(s) should work together to implement practices that increase transparency, openness, and disclosure to the supported institution and the public.
  • Universities and affiliated foundations should follow best governance practices, to ensure that the work of the foundation is aligned with the strategic priorities of the supported university. Universities and foundations also should collaborate to establish strong orientation programs to educate new university officials and all new foundation board members about the foundation’s mission, legal requirements and fiduciary duties.
  • University-affiliated foundations should adopt policies that are transparent, reflect best practices, and mitigate even the appearance of impropriety, unfairness, financial self-dealing or fiscal imprudence.
  • Institutions and university-affiliated foundations should adopt and consistently apply gift acceptance policies, thoroughly document donor intent and carefully review proposed gifts to ensure that donors’ intentions can be fulfilled and that through the acceptance of gifts, institutions will not be subject to undue external influence, such as over academic programs and appointments or to financial or compliance risk. 

Also on Thursday, the Board of Regents heard interim reports from two other task forces.

Regent Paul Foster, chair of the Task Force on Employee/Student Relationships, said a final report should be ready in November.

The task force began meeting five months ago, and “we’ve learned a lot about the potential problems facing students, student-athletes and staff on campuses and the issues surrounding the best ways to address them,” Regent Foster told the Board. “Ultimately, this is an issue of student welfare and safety and must be taken very seriously through both policy and culture change.”

Regent Alex Cranberg, co-chair of the Task Force on Engineering Education for the 21st Century, said the group is making progress and should finalize recommendations this fall.

The goal of the task force is to determine the current state of engineering degree programs in Texas, study current and future demand for engineers, and identify strategies for the Texas Legislature and higher education leaders that will foster student success in the field of engineering while at the same time supporting economic growth across the state.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.