Shared governance receives attention

Known as "shared governance," which includes faculty and administration in the decision-making process for the university, the proposal could be, if approved, in place as early as the next school year.,”

A proposal to create a new governing body by merging Academic Senate and the Committee on Faculty is under consideration by both bodies and awaits approval from university administration.

Known as "shared governance" – which includes faculty and administration in the decision-making process for the university – the proposal, if approved could be in place as early as the next academic year.

Currently, the COF serves as an advisory role to Provost Madeline Wake. The Academic Senate represents "the official collective stance of the area of the Academic Division," according to the statutes for the Senate.

The decision to investigate shared governance came after a visit from the North Central Association accrediting body in 2004.

Some reviewers said they didn't understand the Academic Senate/COF set up, according to Carla Hay, an associate professor of history who served as an Academic Senate representative on a task force charged with proposing the shared governance model.

The North Central group recommended a new body to promote faculty governance, Hay said.

Wake convened the task force to create the proposal in fall 2005. This group, according to Maureen O'Brien, clinical associate professor of nursing and COF representative on the task force, met weekly for more than a year to create the final proposal.

Although many details still have to be worked out and the proposal still awaits approval, the model of shared governance provides many benefits for faculty and administration, the stakeholders say.

With the new model, "the provost has a clear line of communication" dealing with faculty concerns and faculty have united representation, according to Peter Jones, a member of the task force and chair of the mathematics, statistics and computer science department.

"It is a model based on mutual trust and respect, and in that sense, befits what higher education ought to be about in terms of collaboration for the greater good," said Bill Henk in an e-mail. Henk is the dean of the School of Education and a representative from the Academic Senate on the task force.

The new model would also provide a number of challenges for both faculty and administration.

For example, involving more people in the decision-making process may add extra time to that process – but, Hay said, it would help to avoid complaints over a decision.

By consulting with faculty, even if the university reaches a decision with which many faculty members disagree, the university has still taken their input and the end decision would be easier to accept, she said.

With their added say in decision-making, it is important for faculty especially to keep track of campus issues, Hay said.

Another important group of stakeholders will also be represented, task force members said.

Students, who are represented on the current Academic Senate, will be on the new body, as they have "a valuable perspective we don't want to neglect," O'Brien said.

Wake declined comment, saying in an e-mail to the Tribune that she believed it was better "to delay my response to you until the model is finalized."