Taking faculty governance seriously
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
governance bodies at Emory
or Sandbox Politics?
Two models of faculty governance
Frank and Healthy Communication
The Past and Future of the University Senate
T. Branch Jr., Carter Smith Sr. Professor of Medicine and President,
the Great Divide
Enhancing faculty-trustee communication
Karen Stolley, Associate
Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
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?
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
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.