Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toward a Shared Vision of Shared Governance

The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 5th, 2015

The occasional tendency to link the focused concept of academic freedom to the much broader concept of "shared governance" reinforces the need to re-examine how shared governance should be thought about. The first thoroughgoing attempt to link the two concepts seems to have been the adoption in 1966 by the American Association of University Professors of its Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which it had jointly formulated with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Then, in 1998, the AGB issued its own Statement on Institutional Governance, which was widely read as pushing back on active faculty involvement in addressing issues of many kinds.
At one point in our research we were inclined to drop references to shared governance altogether and to argue for avoiding all use of the phrase. We were troubled by the vagueness of the concept, the lack of even rough agreement as to what it meant, and inclinations to use the phrase in sloganeering efforts of various kinds. We are now persuaded that the term is here to stay and in fact can have useful connotations. It cannot, however, be expected to settle most issues of consequence having to do with the precise definition of faculty roles—it remains too amorphous, and subject to too many interpretations, to serve that purpose. Moreover, market conditions and local circumstances have affected faculty roles since the days of the colonial colleges and will continue to do so; the variety of such forces means that there will always be institution-specific answers as to how the role of the faculty should be defined.

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