Topics Suggested by Board Members

Why We Work Together

  1. Part of our culture is a spirit of generosity.  How do we keep that spirit of generosity alive in our governance, especially during difficult times?
  2. How do we ensure that all parties are focused on the future of the whole college?
  3. Our mission does not directly (or, really, indirectly) address governance, but our value of Community does.  How can we ensure that every aspect of that value is reflected in the way we interact to govern the College?  Here’s how we define it:

    Community:  Gustavus has always prized community.  Civility, mutual respect, cooperation, shared governance, and a pervasive sense of concern for every member of the Gustavus community are hallmarks of the College.  Freedom to express a broad range of ideas is central to our sense of community.

  4. Is “Shared Governance” too narrow? How do we define this correctly?  The documents we’re dealing with address responsibility and accountability for different aspects of the College.  What’s the right definition of this?
  5. Will agreement on long-term plans, and a planning process, help foster engagement and support for actions against that plan?
  6. How can good governance help us to achieve the Mission?
  7. How can we ensure that what Gustavus provides is a viable offering – i.e., students will still want it in 5-10-20 years?
  8. Resources are limited; nobody will get everything they might want.  How do we create closure once a decision is made?
  9. How do we create alignment between all of our key constituents?
  10. How do we measure results?
  11. If there are three main parties sharing responsibility for governance of the College (Administration, Faculty and the Board), how should communication happen in a way that keeps all three parties informed?
  12. Does shared governance look any different in a time of (potential) dramatic change within the academy?

How We Work Together

  1. In a covenant community, expectations are settled, and behavior doesn’t depend on “performance by the other side”.  Are we a covenant community?  Can we be?
  2. A steady commitment and strategy to deepen trust will help our governance. Bottom line this has to do with relationships… we need to sort out what communication is helpful, too little and overkill.  But trust is bigger than just communication.
  3. Civility. It went away. How do we get it back?
  4. Respect went away too.  How do we get it back?  These are likely related.
  5. What new communication channels/methods are required to achieve the goals of inclusivity and transparency?
  6. How do we get all the players focused on a common goal – i.e., an effective culture of collaboration and a set of governance structures that support it?
  7. What’s our process for communicating in a crisis?  Face to face, and in writing?
  8. At times, communication is too formal – can we create a confidential forum where we can talk out our issues?  This can only happen if things are truly, entirely confidential – otherwise nobody will talk.  How do we get that guarantee?
  9. What’s the right way to keep conversation going (always, not just in crisis) with the faculty and administration?
  10. How can we keep our disagreements out of the classroom?  What do we need to do to ensure that?
  11. Which decisions need to be explained, and which just need to be made and acted upon?
  12. There’s a difference between a disagreement and a conflict.  A disagreement doesn’t need to be a conflict, but lately the two have been the same thing.  How can we ensure that disagreements are openly discussed, but needn’t always be viewed as conflicts?
  13. When we trust each other, we don’t need to pull out the rulebook.  What, specifically, needs to happen to restore a culture of trust?
  14. What is the Gustavus communication style?  Do we have one?
  15. If we spent more time together – eating together, “cafeteria time” – what would that do for us?
  16. What is our culture of input?  When input is provided, what is given in return?
  17. What is our culture of notice?  What is our culture of awareness?

Our Roles in Working Together

  1. What happens when parties are involved in something, but not accountable for it?
  2. What is the scope of what is purely administrative?  How can we ensure that those who are given the task of doing something know that they are the “trusted hands” and won’t be second-guessed?
  3. Would systems training help people think how we might function more effectively together? We have some patterns we need to change.
  4. Dialogue happens under conditions of trust; part of trust is confidentiality.  How do we set the right expectations for transparency and confidentiality?
  5. Is part of the solution here to have a “no surprises” rule?  How far would that extend?
  6. The Board can delegate authority, but it can’t delegate accountability.  In the academic context, it can’t (easily) hold the faculty accountable, though it can hold the Administration accountable.  How much is this asymmetry responsible for our problems?
  7. How do we think about making fast decisions when fast decisions are necessary?  What processes do we have in place that are good for making fast decisions – and what processes don’t work well there?
  8. How can we ensure that initiatives always flow through the right channels – from the start?
  9. Roles come with boundaries.  Do we need to clarify the boundaries?