Advise and Consent

Citizenship or sandbox politics?
Two models of faculty governance

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

"I think there are limits to faculty governance; it stops short of management."
Micheal Giles, Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science

Standing governance bodies at Emory

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


An article in the May/June 2001 issue of Academe, a publication of the American Association of University Professors, contrasts two models of faculty governance in the United States.

According to David A. Hollinger, the two models are weak dean/strong faculty and strong dean/weak faculty. He points to two institutions that, based on his own experience, typify the two systems. The faculty senate of the University of California, Berkeley, he says, “is one of the most powerful in American higher education,” while the University of Michigan senate plays “a more modest role in the governance of its campus [and] is more representative of the national norm.”

While Hollinger’s Berkeley colleagues tended to view senate service as a serious responsibility of good citizenship, his Michigan colleagues were more inclined to leave the task to administrators because they “are paid to do this.” In such weak faculty governance structures, the system appears to be in place only for dealing with crises. In the absence of a crisis, faculty senators have very little to do.

A strong faculty governance structure tends to be more involved in the day-to-day governance of universities. For example, one Berkeley senate committee has authority to recommend salaries at the time of appointment, promotion, retention, or routine review. In fact, Hollinger notes, one indicator of a weak faculty governance structure is the differentiation of salaries by field. In general, the more differentiation, the weaker the faculty governance system. A strong faculty governance structure is typified by pay equity across fields. In contrast, a weak structure is characterized by higher salaries for those professors possessing skills that are marketable outside the university.

Hollinger associates the ability of professors to “act together” with a sense of institutional community. A lack of solidarity indicates a greater identification with external groups—“professional, ethnoracial, economic, and political.” He concludes that weak senates that aspire to be more than simply “holding operations” must be given “substantial authority over important decisions.” —Vince Carter

The full text of Hollinger’s article is available on-line at