Association News

On Values, Sponsor Guidelines and Open Communication

An open letter to the HighEdWeb community.


HighEdWeb takes very seriously our core values — that we are trustworthy, open and collaborative. In that spirit, I want to address some work by the board of directors over the last few months.

HighEdWeb has always been a strong community with many voices. It represents a wide swath of digital professionals working at many different types of higher education institutions. We’re here to: 

  • Connect our community. 
  • Share and learn from each other.
  • Champion growth to help higher ed thrive. 

To this end, we’ve long invited sponsors to our events. This helps attendees and their schools find future partners and make our events more affordable to all community members.

The board recently adopted sponsor guidelines, as we shared in the September newsletter. I want to take a few steps back from that point and shed some light on how we got here. 

As you may be aware, Pantheon’s recent stance regarding the application of its content policy towards a client has been the subject of some debate. Pantheon, a long-time sponsor of the HighEdWeb Annual Conference, had committed to our 2023 conference before this issue came to light. The board met with Pantheon representatives to share the concerns within our community. The board took concrete steps to examine its options, the discussion with Pantheon and our mission — as this is a complex issue. We want to provide space for open engagement and exchange of ideas within our community, and space for change. After all, we’re HighEdWeb — we connect people and institutions to learn from one another. That’s what we do.

At the same time I charged a task force of the board to solidify a framework of clearer standards for working with sponsors going forward. That task force looked at best practices from our peers and other industries, and established guidelines for future sponsorship agreements that match our core values. Sponsors must be: 

  • Partners to our members and their institutions.
  • Open and transparent of their own values.
  • Communicating with HighEdWeb (and, by extension, our members) in good faith. 

During the Annual Conference and throughout the year, you have a choice of how (or if) you engage with our sponsors. While we encourage you to discover how sponsors can help your university further its mission, we also respect how you decide to engage. At this year’s annual conference, Pantheon will use their sponsor-provided session in the schedule to hold a community forum about their content policy. I encourage you to attend, share and listen. I expect that it will be a lively, multifaceted discussion. But they will be listening, and so will we.

HighEdWeb has long been a place for the exchange of ideas, and this year’s conference will be no exception. I’m excited to welcome nearly 600 of you to Buffalo, this year’s home away from home, as well as nearly 300 of you online.

In service,

Aaron Knight
HighEdWeb president

Portrait of Aaron outside on SUNY ESF campus
HighEdWeb President Aaron Knight

Share this: