Earlier this month, we reposted an article from Christianity Today on the danger of not respecting (or understanding?) the concept of shared governance. The title, “Bryan College Faculty Vote 'No Confidence' in President over Adam and Eve,” tells it all. The board made a significant change in the school’s Statement of Belief but didn’t include the faculty in that decision-making process. The result was the first no-confidence vote in the school’s history.

Several years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on shared governance. The writer worried that few people in education seem to understand what the phrase means. “The phrase shared governance is so hackneyed,” he wrote, “that it is becoming what some linguists call an ‘empty’ or ‘floating’ signifier, a term so devoid of determinate meaning that it takes on whatever significance a particular speaker gives it at the moment. Once a term arrives at that point, it is essentially useless.”

This piece made me wonder, Can that be true of readers of In Trust? We talk a lot about shared governance. (I mean, a lot.) Could it be that some of our readers — seminary presidents, board members, administrators — bring a flawed definition of shared governance to this silent conversation?

As I read through a handful of the many resources on shared governance we’ve shared over the years, I began to realize that misconceptions could persist, especially if readers approach the magazine as a magazine— that is, as a resource that is only relevant for a short time, made less relevant with each new issue. On the contrary, In Trust is something rather unique. Instead of a periodical, I think of our quarterly magazine as a serial textbook on seminary governance. (And I think many of our readers would agree.)

Seen in that light, the great database of articles and videos we have online is an essential part of learning about topics like shared governance. It is there that you would find a definitive article like Rebekah Burch Basinger’s piece from 2010 on “Shared Governance: The Standard in Academic Governance.” 

Photo by Matt Forster