Taking faculty governance seriously
think there are limits to faculty governance; it stops short of
Micheal Giles, Goodrich
C. White Professor of Political Science
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): Do you think
our university-level faculty governance works?
Robert Schapiro (RS):
I just finished two years on the Faculty Council, and from that
perspective I can see some things that seem to work fairly well
and some things that other structures might handle
better. It’s certainly good to get people together from different
parts of the university once a month to talk about certain, discrete
issues—things like criteria for the University Teaching Fund
or various kinds of awards. The Faculty Council also got acquainted
with some special issues, such as the intellectual property policy,
and helped on that. I think it is a good forum in which the interests
of the different parts of the university can be represented. And
I do think there is a certain benefit in just having the ability
to talk to the administration, in having a question-and-answer session
with the president and provost.
I think it is hard, though, for that group to deal with larger issues,
things like budget and benefits issues. The administration is very
good at presenting the budget to the Faculty Council and answering
any questions we might have. But it was difficult for that group,
just meeting once a month, really to be able to grapple with the
full range of
AE: What kinds
of powers, structures, and processes exist among the law school
RS: One of the main
functions the faculty has at this level is on appointment and promotion
decisions, and faculty are very involved in those. We have ongoing
faculty committees that deal with appointments, admissions, curriculum,
and other matters. It’s always an issue as to what extent
faculty will be involved in allocational decisions—how to
spend the law school’s money. Should it be on lowering the
class size? On hiring new faculty? On increasing compensation to
faculty? And that tends to be handled more informally, with the
dean making decisions in consultation with the faculty. I think
the smaller scale makes it an informal structure in which faculty
can still have some say. It’s easy enough to get necessary
information. You see people on a daily basis, so you are more personally
in touch with those kinds of decisions. Things like that are difficult
at the university level because there are all kinds of cross-university
issues you’re not really aware of: how does the money work
with regard to health sciences? It really requires a kind of specialization
to look into those kinds of issues. That’s what can be hard
about having a council that meets once a month, as opposed to committees
or some other kind of continuing, smaller, more intense institution.
AE: Is it appropriate
for faculty to have power of consent over some of these decisions?
RS: I think the custom
that universities are governed by faculty is an important concept,
that they are in a way self-governing bodies, with decisions made
by a collective group relating to the overall mission of the university.
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. On the other hand, universities
are ongoing, complicated, large-scale organizations requiring detailed
financial planning, and it can be difficult for the faculty to be
involved in all of those kinds of decisions. The challenge is to
educate the faculty and provide them with the time and the structures
really to be able to participate in that kind of enterprise. I think
it can be done; I think there’s a certain way it can be inefficient.
involved in faculty governance requires a commitment of time and
energy, yet many say that’s not a priority as academics.
RS: We’re scholars,
we’re teachers, and we’re citizens of the university.
All of those are important roles. It does require some sacrifice
of time to be involved in faculty governance. But it is possible
to set aside the time to work on issues, become acquainted with
issues, and then have an impact on issues. And that may be a rotating
function. That may be an obligation that people take on, but they
then can move on to other things.
I think being aware of what goes on in the university is something
that in a sense we all need to do. It’s like reading the morning
newspaper. That’s part of being a citizen.