Open Letter to the IRS

Open Letter to the IRS

NADOHE Signs Open Letter to the IRS

February 16, 2024

As public scrutiny of college and university presidents intensifies, it is vital that they have strong support from their governing boards. The quality of that support depends on board makeup — the experiences, qualifications, perspectives, and other background that individual board members bring to the table.

This is a key reason why the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education joined the growing movement for better governance transparency in nonprofits. Specifically, in my capacity as NADOHE president and CEO, I have signed an open letter urging the IRS to amend Form 990 to require the disclosure of nonprofit board composition.

The Committee to Amend IRS Form 990 continues to seek signatories for this letter, which it submitted to the IRS in June 2023 and continues to publicize. I’m proud to be among more than 140 signatories who signed on to the campaign before the letter went public.

Through its daily collaborations with diversity advocates nationwide, NADOHE has unique insight into the need for diverse governance, in particular at nonprofit colleges and universities. Varied perspectives and life experiences at an organization’s highest levels help spur the innovation and practices that open doors. Yet for too many institutions of higher education, there’s no standard to mandate the disclosure of governing boards’ demographics.

As a consequence, stakeholders — and the public at large — have limited means to hold these colleges and universities accountable, at the highest levels, to their institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion principles. 

Diverse board leadership is valuable especially to those presidents who are academically qualified but political novices. Take the recent experiences of two former Ivy League presidents: Elizabeth Magill at the University of Pennsylvania and Claudine Gay at Harvard University. Both left their executive posts following extraordinary political pressure. Their cases stood out for drawing national attention, but they’re not alone:  Top executives across the country face similar forces that are shortening tenures and contributing to institutional instability.

Transparency can be an instrumental contributor to the diverse governance that’s necessary to support and empower chief executives in this fraught chapter. NADOHE invites its partners and allies to join the campaign to amend Form 990. Extra sunlight can go a long way.

Paulette Granberry Russell, J.D.
President and CEO, NADOHE