How Oberlin Works

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Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of Oberlin College. It manages the welfare of the College and the only legally recognized authority of the College. Oberlin’s board has 34 members and convenes on campus four times a year. The board is populated by alumni who have expertise and resources to contribute to the College. Although the board does not manage the minutia of running the College, it retains all powers appropriate to its responsibilities, regardless of specific delegations of authority. Because it is responsible for the College as a whole, it must approve all major decisions, especially those pertaining to finances and long-term planning, such as in the Strategic Plan.


The board consists of 34 trustees together with the president of the College, who is an ex officio member of the board. Board members elect a chair from the membership. The chair serves no more than two successive three-year terms. Twenty-four trustees are elected by the board and six are elected by alumni; these trustees serve six-year terms. Three class trustees are elected by their peers—one annually from each graduating class—to serve on the board for three years.


The board completes its work through an Executive Committee and subcommittees for budget and finance, capital planning, investment, development, academic affairs, nominations, and communications. The Executive Committee comprises the chair and vice chair of the board and the chairs of the major subcommittees. Although the Executive Committee has the full power of the board, it exercises this power with great discretion and generally makes decisions on behalf of the board in matters that are either routine or especially urgent; controversial matters are put off when possible until the full board convenes.

Relationship to administration and faculty

The board is responsible for all aspects of the College; however, since the 1835 Finney Compact, the faculty has taken responsibility for academic affairs, including curricular matters and hiring of faculty. In the College’s charter and bylaws, the General Faculty (which includes all faculty members and select administrators) is entrusted with the management of the internal affairs of the College. Because the board meets only a few times a year, the faculty and administration is granted some degree of autonomy in the day-to-day operations of the College. That being said, if problems arise, the board is entirely within its jurisdiction to suggest solutions and resolve the situation.

Meet the Trustees