Weak link

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges recently released a new report on the role of faculty and trustees in shared governance.

Inside Higher Ed reports on some of the findings:

  • Most colleges (90 percent) have a faculty senate or similar governing body. At 59 percent of institutions, this body is considered "policy influencing," while 29 percent consider it "advisory" and 13 percent consider it "policy making."
  • The influence of these bodies is considered "important" at half of institutions, and "very important" at 42 percent.
  • Those surveyed either agreed (43 percent) or strongly agreed (54 percent) "that trustees, administrators, and faculty typically demonstrate collegiality, respect, tolerance, and civility towards each other.
  • Most respondents agreed (54 percent) or strongly agreed (20 percent) that "policies and practices of shared governance are known, understood, and accepted by trustees, administrators, and the faculty," although a significant minority either didn't know or disagreed.
  • Most colleges have orientation programs for new trustees and most include background on the "culture of academic decision making" but only 37 percent specifically address faculty promotion and tenure and only 39 percent discuss academic freedom.

The report has been faulted for surveying only administrators and board chairs without asking faculty to weigh in. Nevertheless, it suggests that administrators consider the governance roles of both board and faculty to be important.

Still, both sides likely need more information about the other. From the report's executive summary:

The vitality and viability of institutional governance are threatened when faculty-board relations suffer; as demands for greater accountability continue, especially with respect to educational quality, boards will benefit from efforts to obtain faculty insight.

Barriers to successful board-faculty interaction include insufficient time, lack of mutual understanding and respect, governance policies and practices that are unclear or out-of-date, the complexities of higher education, and a general lack of interest. Recommendations to address these barriers include: better orientation and continuing education of trustees and faculty; opportunities for faculty and trustee service on key committees and work groups; frequent communication, especially by the president; greater transparency in decision-making and clarity about respective responsibilities of faculty, administrators, and the governing board; current and accessible governance polices; and presidential leadership in facilitating shared institutional governance.

The report is called "Faculty, Governing Boards, and Institutional Governance." Read the full report here (PDF; 25 pages).

Read about the report in Inside Higher Ed here.

Read about the report in The Chronicle of Higher Education here.


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