Advise and Consent

I think there are limits to faculty governance; it stops short of management.

—Micheal Giles, Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science


Advise and Consent:
Taking faculty governance seriously

"Part of what makes universities special is the idea that decisions are made collectively by a group of scholars. It's an important goal that needs to be sustained."
Robert Schapiro, Associate Professor of Law

Standing governance bodies at Emory

Citizenship or Sandbox Politics?
Two models of faculty governance

Fostering Frank and Healthy Communication
The Past and Future of the University Senate
William T. Branch Jr., Carter Smith Sr. Professor of Medicine and President, University Senate


Crossing the Great Divide
Enhancing faculty-trustee communication
Karen Stolley, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

Return to Contents

Academic Exchange (AE): How do you determine your involvement in faculty governance?

Micheal Giles (MG): I have served as a chair of the political science department and on the Faculty Council of the college. Those positions are where decisions are made that are important for the faculty: who gets tenure, who gets promoted. They really make a difference. Many of the more general governance structures, like the University Senate, I haven’t been involved in because I really didn’t think faculty had very much influence. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on something I didn’t see to be very productive.

AE: You have some ideas about restructuring faculty governance for Emory College and its connections to university-level governance?

MG: This year I am chair of the Executive Committee of Emory College, and one of our priorities I hope for the coming year will be the issue of governance. The Executive Committee is made up of the chairs of some standing committees plus a few at-large people. Currently, there is not a body the college faculty perceives as selected for the purpose of representing, in general policy terms, their preferences. And given the role the University Senate plays, having these two governing bodies without some type of a structural linkage is problematic.

AE: Should faculty have power of consent?

MG: I think there are limits to faculty governance; it stops short of management. No institution can be managed by faculty, and there are many more stakeholders in this institution than simply the faculty. So I wouldn’t even advocate that the faculty vote on everything and that we be the controlling voice.

My understanding of how one shapes policy is that it’s better to start off with a truly consultative process leading into a decision,
as opposed to simply having a decision handed down and hoping for consent. A good leader goes through that consulting process, so the question really becomes, do we have an informal, ad hoc consulting process, or do we have one that’s transparent and structured?

AE: What do you think consultation should look like?

MG: We need a clear structure that allows faculty voices to be heard. What it shouldn’t be is a set of luncheon forums with selected faculty in which an administrator meets them on kind of an ad hoc basis, and then comes up with a decision and says, “I’ve consulted.” If you have an unstructured consultation, where you meet with a world of groups, then you get to choose which you actually heard and didn’t hear. And even more importantly, the groups aren’t able to hear each other.

Ultimately, the leadership has to drive the process of consultation—the president, the provost, the deans. The process should bring the stakeholders, the people who have an interest in Emory, to the table—faculty, students, alumni, trustees. But the faculty should play the principle role. Universities are a very interesting form of institutional organization. You get a lot of folks who want to say, This is a corporate structure. And it takes on some of that shape, because you have a board of trustees and a president, and so the board doesn’t want to talk to the “workers.” They only want to talk to the president. But we’ve seen how problematic that structure is for corporations. You end up with boards who are shielded from the information they need to perform the role of holding the ceo accountable. This structure is even more problematic for a university. Because at least a corporate board can look at the profits, market share, and stock price. It’s very difficult to get those kinds of performance markers for a university, where reputations change very slowly.

So what should the consultative process look like? I think you could get the social sciences, for example, in the same room and listen to their competing visions and force them to think in terms of what they have in common and what they don’t. What are our niches? What can be exploited? How do those things fit together? You engage the faculty in a conversation that emphasizes tensions. And you come out of that with a faculty who is better educated about its own issues and its own positions.

This type of process is a hard thing to do right now, because it takes trust for it to work. Faculty have to believe their participation will make a difference at the end of the day, that it’s not just window dressing.