"The faculty governance question becomes ever more urgent as other types of collective power (like unions) are undermined. But who really WANTS to be on the Faculty Senate?"
This was one of the comments to the article I read last week in the Chronicle of Higher Ed which I'm linking and posting below. It is an appropriate read for this month since certain elections for faculty offices in our Union and Senate are coming up. The UPI Presidency race is between the incumbent Laurie Walter and Pancho McFarland. Ballots from the main UPI office have been sent to home addresses with a stamped card to mail in. To my knowledge there is no debate or forum planned between Drs. Walter and McFarland, but we will keep you posted if one will take place. I invite both candidates to use this blog to post their vision and mission (look at me--mouthing the HLC language)if they so choose.
And various departments on campus will also be holding elections this month for Senate membership to fill expired seats. At the Senate meeting on Tuesday we learned, sadly, that our current and long-serving Senate President Yan Searcy will be moving over to an Administrative position in the College of Arts and Sciences' Dean's Office. I know I speak for many others when I say that I will miss Dr. Searcy's calm presence, his diplomatic instincts, the depth of his intellectual vision and especially his fearless advocacy for faculty concerns. Many people may not be aware, and it should have been blogged about earlier, but last month, thanks to the efforts of Dr Searcy and the new Board of Trustees President Rozier, several faculty members from the Faculty Senate had lunch with the Board of Trustees during the March Board meeting. This simple meeting symbolized a great deal and is a huge leap forward in faculty/university relations. I'm seeing it as the beginning of an easier dialogue across campus constituencies. (The goal of gaining faculty membership on the board might not be the pipe dream some have claimed it to be). And Dr Searcy's move to administration is less a loss to the faculty as it is a gain for all of us at the university. Unlike many of the corporate-speak administrators who have been put into positions at this university from places outside academe and seem to be unaware of the academy's concerns, Dr Searcy is not one of them. Good luck Yan, you're not stepping down, you're stepping in.
Which makes me wonder, who will now step up?
The article below is a strong statement for faculty to stop equating "service" with "governance." Faculty with tenure have a responsibility to the institution that gave them that. Just because we have a union contract does not relegate faculty to worker bees who are "advisory only" at any level of the university. One of the comments below spoke to me quite personally when I decided several years ago that I would no longer serve on committees (e.g. dept., college, university "service") that were simply trumped up for accrediting bodies, eye-wash, toothless, and invariably, "advisory only." See if you relate to this statement as well:
Faculty governance disappeared during my teaching career (1975-2003). In the early years, faculty opinions, advice and votes mattered. As time went on, all committees became "advisory". We spent hours on reports, five year plans, assessments etc. only to realize that nothing changed. We cast votes of no confidence on administrators whose contracts were renewed in spite of our concerns. Over time, we came to view faculty "service" as an exercise in futility. Decisions were made at the top. Reports were prepared that no one read. Indifference and apathy became the norm...
Faculty must run the academic side of the university. The Senate and the Union both need to take back power that has been allowed to be ceded to administrative sections of the campus. There is no reason we cannot have a faculty representative on the Board of Trustees when the students have one. There is no reason that faculty in departments conducting a faculty search cannot even rank the candidates of their choice when they send their list on up to the Dean. Together with this Deans owe the faculty the courtesy of a report as to why he or she chose to go against the faculty's first choices. It is disappointing that the new union contract did not negotiate this shred of "shared governance." And even if it is not "contracturally negotiated," the administrators who claim to have the best interests of the university at heart should insist that their faculty are the best ones to make such academic determinations. I challenge the Deans at CSU to permit what the contract does not give us. As one of the commentators to this article notes: "The upper administration can continue to play musical chairs, moving from one institution to another, until the money runs out," but the faculty are the ones who are left having to live with administrative decisions long after administrators have moved on.
Faculty hiring at CSU is not yet a shared process at CSU. At the Senate meeting on Tuesday we were informed that tenure-track hires were being rejected at the Presidential level. This is a problem.
There is a lot of work to do in the Union and in the Senate and many Senate Committees need to be reinvigorated. This is not a time for faculty to act like tenured adjuncts.
Chronicle of Higher Education
"Belief and Lazy Consensus: Focusing on Governance"March 28, 2012, 8:00 am
By Jason B. Jones
A crucial word in the world of soccer commentary is belief. Related to confidence, belief names the sense a team or player has that they can impose their shape or will on a game.
Belief is somewhat like momentum, in that it’s difficult to quantify but clearly visible. A solid goalie lets in an uncharacteristically bad goal, and a team will deflate for ten minutes; likewise, a series of big saves can help an overmatched team find the creativity to steal some goals of their own. (I’ve always liked Alan Jacobs’s post on penalty kicks as an illustration of belief.)
I think there’s a metaphor here that’s related to faculty governance.
The simultaneous erosion of tenure-track positions over the past three decades and the systematic abuse of contingent appointments has, as Debra Lee Scott has recently observed, left professors discombobulated: “We have been deprofessionalized. And by de-professionalizing us, the administration has gained control and silenced the faculty” (via Jonathan Rees).
The quietism of some faculty stems from many sources: the desire not to seem like a crank; misconceiving of the work of the university as “service” rather than governance; deciding to focus on your disciplinary colleagues elsewhere (or online) instead of your institution; a healthy human hatred of meetings–all of these add up to a sort of despair that the faculty can make a difference.
They amount, in short, to a crisis in belief.
Faculty are outstanding grumblers, so it may be surprising to talk about quietism–but there’s a difference between complaining and working to address a problem. Each ought to have its day, but too often the stress remains on the former, and those complaints end up failing to drive change.
I will always be an admirer of those who try to support faculty governance and independent judgment, and those who speak up for the institutionally silenced. I’m even unreasonably fond of Bethany Nowviskie’s avowedly reckless proposal, in “lazy consensus,” to adopt an “extreme bias towards action” in academic governance, by deciding “the default answer is always yes.”
It’s reckless because, as she admits repeatedly insists that “In order to give you this advice in good conscience, I need to paste warning stickers all over it. And this is what they say: “You must only use lazy consensus to do what you know is right.” From my point of view, “doing what you know is right” often leads to some pretty shocking abuses.
But Nowviskie is trying to find local ways to grapple with the crisis in belief:
Now, my point with these examples has not been to push any one agenda at you, but to suggest that lazy consensus has already been working against us in every case where we don’t engage. You can easily see its negative side in the wider political arena. But on the very local level, it kicks in and becomes a factor in any set of decisions where we developers and systems folks and middle management get so busy that we go completely heads-down and become oblivious to larger trends and directions. When that happens, we end up not having a voice. We end up being the people who don’t speak up even though we’re nominally represented, and no matter what we may really think, we are therefore assumed to be a +1.
Finding our way out of that oblivion strikes me as absolutely critical. (My preferred strategies tend to involve identifying key people to run for offices, and then working to help their election.)
(Plus, the guiding spirit of Nowviskie’s talk is “drive it like you stole it,” which gives me an opportunity to rejoin, “she drove it fast, and with a multitude of casualties.”)
COMMENTS1. Faculty governance disappeared during my teaching career (1975-2003). In the early years, faculty opinions, advice and votes mattered. As time went on, all committees became "advisory". We spent hours on reports, five year plans, assessments etc. only to realize that nothing changed. We cast votes of no confidence on administrators whose contracts were renewed in spite of our concerns. Over time, we came to view faculty "service" as an exercise in futility. Decisions were made at the top. Reports were prepared that no one read. Indifference and apathy became the norm. Now with the high percentage of adjuncts, the centralized upper administrations have all of the power. I rather think they like it that way. But there is a day of reckoning coming very soon. Those with the power who make the decisions will now face the future without much continuity and advice from below. As baby boomers retire, adjuncts are left to teach without any voice or status or even any personal investment in the success or failure of an
The upper administration can continue to play musical chairs, moving from one institution to another, until the money runs out.
It is all so very sad.
#2• Here's a perspective why faculty will not succeed in participating in governance. Faculty must take action, put themselves in harm's way, to support each other and even support those they disagree with, when, for example, administrators and their ally colleagues isolate and act to get rid of a colleague.
Not only insist on due process, insist on open due process, participate in due process, refuse to let administrators bypass or short change due process. And shut the place down when administrators corrupt the university and its principles.
Faculty all to often let little misconduct pass, which prepares them to let any misconduct pass. If you have to look for misconduct or doubt it exists on your campus, you don't know what's going on on your own campus or you don't care or your too afraid to get involved.
Governance is like power, you can cede it or take it. If you don't have the authority, then you must take it.