Shared Governance in a Time of Leadership Transition
By Joan Poliner Shapiro
President, Faculty Senate and Professor, Educational Leadership
At Temple University, during this academic year, we are facing a time of leadership transition. This is a pivotal period when the changeover can either be calm or it can be stormy. This is also a time when our mission and core values, as an educational institution, may be challenged. In particular, this is a period when shared governance needs to be enhanced, not diminished.
I believe that shared governance should be utilized as often as possible during this challenging period. To provide some background to this concept, in 1967, a Joint Statement, defining shared governance, was formally adopted by the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AAUP, 2001). These organizations described a symbiotic relationship between trustees, presidents and faculty, indicating the need for mutual understandings. The Joint Statement clarified that faculty had a major role to play in educational decisions and also in educational policy issues related to the entire university.
Of late, market forces and the accountability movement have attempted to reshape the faculty role in university decision-making, despite numerous evaluations demonstrating that shared governance appears to be working very well (Cox, 2000; Minor, 2003). This tendency to oppose this important concept is troubling. Birnbaum (2004) has warned that it could be the end of shared governance if faculty members in higher education do not respond to the criticisms leveled against them. In particular, it is alleged that faculty tend to hamper the need for swift decision-making processes in an ever-changing market place (Steck, 2003). It is also alleged that, due to the emphasis on accountability, there is a need for academia to be more hierarchical and less collegial (Gerber, 2001). During this unsettled period, where market and accountability forces are tending to prevail, it seems to me to be more important than ever for faculty to be involved in thoughtful and deliberative university decision-making and to not opt out of the process.
Turning to our current situation at Temple, I think we need to view how shared governance is playing out and what is needed in the future. Most recently, for example, the faculty voice was recognized on the search committee for the new president. While we would have wished for more faculty participation and for a more transparent process, I learned, from two reliable sources, that Paul LaFollette (CST) and Luis Gonzales del Valle (CLA) contributed significantly to this committee.
Another example of faculty involvement occurred over the summer when two new task forces were formed. One focused on aspects of the Freeh Report from Penn State, and the other emphasized online programs. Both consisted of two faculty representatives who were very knowledgeable in each of the areas. The Institutional Integrity Task Force had Frank Friedman (CST) and Eleanor Myers (Law) as faculty representatives. The Online Education Task Force had Catherine Schifter (Educ.) and Dave Hoffman (Law) as its representatives. We are pleased that faculty expertise was solicited. However, we do wish that more faculty members would comprise these important task forces and that they would be sought early on in the process. In particular, we are grateful to the faculty representatives who were willing to work on these substantial issues over the summer.
Keeping in mind the need for shared governance, during a period of transition, what should Temple faculty do? It is my belief that whether your are a full-time tenure track or a non-tenure track faculty member, it is essential that everyone select at least one committee in your own school or college or in the university and become an active participant. I am aware that many tenure track faculty are told to forget about service and focus on research/scholarship/creative achievement and teaching. I am also aware that most non-tenure track faculty carry a heavy teaching load and have little time for service. However, I would argue that now more than ever we need faculty involvement in task forces, search committees and other committees in the university. Not only is this participation good for a university during a time of leadership transition, but it is also very important for faculty wishing to be promoted in this institution. It never hurts to be known, in a positive light, by colleagues in other parts of the university. It can make a real difference when you have name recognition by your peers. Above all, it means that faculty members continue to be part of shared governance during a critical juncture.
In an effort to highlight the importance of service, the 2nd Annual Outstanding Service Award Event will be held. Michael Jackson (STHM), with the support of the Provost’s Office, has led this initiative. This year the event will be on October 30th and will highlight faculty in each of the College/Schools/Division who have provided their time and energy to really be part of shared governance. These stellar Temple citizens deserve recognition. This is but one initiative to say “thank you” to those of you who give back to the university in the area of service.
As you can tell by now, this is a plea for you to take shared governance seriously and find the time in your schedule to join a committee. Look on our new website for opportunities. We have listed over thirty committees, one of which should be of interest to you. You might locate a committee that dovetails with your scholarship or your teaching. Even if the committee appears to be full, just send your vitae and a statement of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org or send it to Mark Rahdert (Law), Vice President of the Senate. The steering committee will review your information on a rolling basis for any of the committees that do not involve an election. If the committee requires an election, we still need your materials, and if the committee is full, your name will be added to a waiting list.
During this challenging period, when shared governance is being opposed by outside forces and we are in the process of a leadership transition, it seems to me that it is essential that we run counter to the current critical trend. Hopefully this means that not only the faculty voice will be part of the decision making process at Temple, but also other voices and perspectives will be solicited. They should include contributions from adjunct faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, alumni/ae and even members from diverse communities that border our many campuses. Thus, I am asking faculty, administrators and trustees to hold true to a tradition of shared governance and even expand and enhance the definition. In this way, all of our stakeholders will help to build a stable and positive future for Temple University.
American Association of University Professors. (2001). Statement on governance of colleges and universities (1967). In Policy Documents and Reports, ninth edition (pp. 217-223). Washington, D. C.: Author.
Birnbaum, R. (2004), The end of shared governance: Looking ahead or looking back. New Directions for Higher Education, 2004: 5–22. doi: 10.1002/he.152.
Cox, A. M. (2000, 17 November). Professors and deans praise shared governance, but criticize corporate model. The Chronicle of Higher Education, A 20.
Gerber, L.G. (2001, May-June). “Inextricably linked”: Shared governance and academic freedom. Academe 87, 22-24.
Minor, J. T. (2003). Assessing the senate. In W. G. Tierney (Ed.), Academic governance in a Protean environment [Special issue]. American Behavioral Scientist, 46(7), 960-977
Steck, H. (2003). Corporatization of the university: Seeking conceptual clarity (P. Rich, & D. Merchant eds.) [Special issue]. The Annals, 585, 66-83.