Governance Update - Spring 2009

Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

When Mary Glenn and I first settled into lead the focus area for Governance, we were both a bit intimidated at the prospect of tackling such a large issue. Frankly, we were not sure what to expect on this journey of inquiry and conversation. We began meeting with key governance groups and people early this spring, and have met with many people and groups involved in the current process, from students to staff to faculty and the administration. For the campus committee structures, which are an extension of the governance system into specific topics, we have surveyed the many campus committee chairs already, and we will be looking at the results this month. We will also continue to survey campus people serving on committees to assess them further in the fall .

From our discussions with people on campus, we have received commentary that more specifically declares what we already know and have been told by consultants and accreditation bodies: Governance is not working well in its current capacity. In fact, in many instances, such as the recent vote of no confidence , our current governance structure often puts campus stakeholders at odds with one other without providing any constructive way of resolving disagreements.

Despite the emphasis on “critique” of governance during this process, we have also received insight into ways which Governance is being done elsewhere. There are many campuses that have established working governance systems that benefit the university in a more collective fashion. A few of these have been suggested to us (e.g., University of Maryland , CSU San Diego). Please take a moment to look at the governance sites for these institutions and tell us what you think. Both of these campuses have created a “University Senate” structure that brings people and information together intentionally to work for the greater good of the whole.

Our existing governance structure places people into separate representative groups that naturally promote opposing perspectives and views. This practice is healthy in relationships that value the other’s perspective and can compromise in a way that nurtures working and learning from each other to achieve progress and common gains. But when the structure promotes opposing perspectives, that over time, have made the progress of the university suffer and fail to achieve what is has potential to accomplish, then it is clearly time to change.

Now is the time to consider how we might change together by beginning to discuss what the change might look like and who can help us make the structural change within a reasonable amount of time while including folks who want to be part of this change.

We will be wrapping up our surveys in the fall and working to identify a change team to mold a better governance structure and process.

 

Posted by Phillip Rouse at 09:24 AM
Filed in: Campus GovernancePermalink

Comments

On 06/25 at 02:39 PM, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said:

“But when the structure promotes opposing perspectives, that over time, have made the progress of the university suffer and fail to achieve what is has potential to accomplish, then it is clearly time to change.” 

The current academic senate structure “brings people and information together intentionally to work for the greater good of the whole.” It is not the structure that is lacking- but the recognition by the participants of what they need to do to have this work.

Setting up a new structure and process without changing the attitudes will reinvent a wheel that still will not work well because of the faulty components.

Changing the components and the relationships might work- but that level of change involves attitude changes as much as any structural changes.

For example- it was suggested that academic affairs restructure its colleges. The response- that would be too much work and the changes in relationships were presumed to maintain relationships similar to those in the current colleges- deans, associate deans, departmental politics, etc. There was little or no consideration of the opportunities for increasing the shared/democratic possibilities with smaller colleges, of eliminating or redefining the role of professional dean/ administrators, of developing college governance that would integrate staff and students in more meaningful and effective ways along with faculty and administration.

The attitude of cooperation and sharing needs trust- and in a culture of evidence. There is little going on between the university components on the current most prominent issues that suggests evidence of sharing and trust rather than the continuing culture of control and fear.
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“beginning to discuss what the change might look like and who can help us make the structural change within a reasonable amount of time while including folks who want to be part of this change.”

And ... who will be involved? Who can help? Who wants to be a part of the change? Allowing a few anointed interested and powerful to control the direction without involving the majority of the community may be expedient. But without early, adequate, and meaningful involvement in a “fierce conversation” at every step of the way, the result after 3 to 5 years or even less time may be as seriously flawed or worse than the current scheme.

A fierce conversation has been initiated by the faculty in its vote of no confidence. Rather than dismiss this as misguided and attempt to place the issue on the appointment of the provost, the president (and the provost) could take this as an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion of the way in which the university can operate with its various components engaged meaningfully in governance.

Of course this is part of the charge of the Cabinet for Change- but the Cabinet needs to engage all - the powerful and the powerless- in the conversation to arrive at a trusted and feasible change in attitudes as well as structures.

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