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.