Few people appear happy with the state of shared governance at American colleges and universities.

That’s how Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, begins a thoughtful essay on how to reform shared governance in higher education.

Rosenberg thinks that many concerns about shared governance’s failures are overblown. Most faculty and administrators want the same thing, he says — to create an environment where student learning can flourish. But that’s not to say that governance can’t be improved.

Rosenberg’s most helpful clarification is this: Imagine two people are assigned two tasks to complete, he says. They could work together on one task and then the other, cooperating all the way. Or they could separate, each completing a single task. Whether the former or the latter strategy is better depends on the people and the tasks.

As it has evolved to this point, “shared governance” means two “people” (the faculty and the administrators) separating, each working on a different task. The faculty work on teaching and curricular issues; the administrators on the business and financial needs of the institution. But maybe that’s not the best way to complete the tasks!

Unfortunately, Rosenberg doesn’t mention the role of the board at all, and a couple of the article's commenters bring up this glaring omission.

But on the other hand, his suggestions for improving shared governance are thought-provoking and merit consideration. My favorite: Eliminate the “town meeting” style of faculty decision making in favor of a representational system. But you must read the article to see the wisdom of this.

Take a look at the article here.

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