How We Work Together
Topics Suggested by Faculty Members
- How should members of the college community communicate with the Board and its members and vice versa?
- Faculty representatives working in collaboration with the Board and administration should be able to report back to the faculty. However, the Board and administration will sometimes have good reasons to want to manage the timing and form of information disclosures, even when confidentiality is not legally necessitated. How is this tension managed?
- Faculty Manual Section 3.1.3 provides that when the President or Board "in rare instances and for compelling reasons" opts not to concur in a faculty judgment regarding tenure, promotion, or other questions of faculty status, those compelling reasons "should be stated in detail." To whom are they stated? Are they stated orally or in writing? How can the President resolve the tension between this responsibility and his responsibility to protect the college from litigation?
- The Faculty Manual, by its own Section 4.1.0, can only be amended with the consent of both the faculty and the Board. However, the very existence and empowerment of the Faculty Manual stems from Article X of the Bylaws, which can be unilaterally amended by the Board. How can we steer well clear of any situation where the Board would be tempted to exercise the "nuclear option" of revoking or eviscerating this article?
- How can the faculty effectively alert the Board that the faculty's confidence in the President is strained, short of an outright vote of no confidence or other damaging steps?
- From time to time, the faculty and administration will differ in their interpretations of some matter of shared governance. Presumably the best resolution is for the two bodies, through a process of dialog, to come to a shared interpretation. When that fails, it will presumably often be wise for one body or the other to graciously accede to act in accordance with the other's interpretation, while continuing to affirm their own interpretation as a matter of principle. However, what happens when neither of these approaches resolves the conflict? Does each body act in accordance with its own interpretation? Does the Board have some role in ensuring coordinated action by providing an authoritative interpretation or engaging an outside arbitrator to do so?
- At a liberal arts college such as Gustavus, it is the expectation that there be a regular forum in which the faculty and president can both converse and listen to each other. That regular forum is traditionally the faculty meeting in which minutes are taken, assuring accountability on both sides.
Failure on the part of a president to respect the expectation that s/he will be present at such meetings sends a signal to faculty that their concerns are of little consequence. Setting up alternate meetings which may be chummy but carry no accountability is not an acceptable substitute.
Faculty meetings are scheduled at a regular time (Fridays at 2:30) and the dates for such are announced at the beginning of the school year.
How can we assure that this forum remains a top priority for our new president, assuring that the foundation of shared governance can rest upon this conversation?
- Shared governance is not just about formal rules (i.e. the Faculty Manual). It is about trust and mutual understanding in the best interest of the institution. Limiting communication between Faculty and Board to the conduit of the President is a bad idea no matter who is President. I agree that Boards should not interfere in the daily decisions of the institution but they should understand the institution and the challenges and sacrifices those who work for the institution face and make. How about once a year each Board member has dinner at a faculty member’s house? Some institutions have this tradition.
- What I have observed here at GAC is a series of process breaches, in that,
- Input is sought from stakeholders when in fact the decision is already made, and/or there is only one viable course of action. This is the "illusion of participation" and there are few things that alienate and infuriate organizational members faster than that.
- Decision processes are undertaken without engaging structured bodies designed to provide critical input and direction. One example of this is the summertime decision to reduce the pension percentage from 10% to 7%. While that may have been the best possible solution, the faculty finance body was never consulted or tasked with coming up with other, creative solutions for the budget woe.
- "Listening" or "giving voice" is considered the key competency when in fact, it's consideration that is non-negotiably important. I can listen to you, and really hear you, but not take your suggestion AND not tell you why I didn't. That's only voice. No one expects all of their suggestions and wishes to be granted, but it's best practice to share the decision process when it results in not enacting someone's suggestion. In other words, the process has to be transparent when a leader listens, considers what was suggested, makes a decision that ultimately rejects the suggestion, then follows up with the suggestor about why that suggestion was not enacted. It does not have to be one-on-one or so micro as that; if (b) above gets reinvigorated, then those are the bodies where that follow up occurs. But having "shared governance" without that entire process being followed and clear is a black hole.
- How can Gustavus staff have a voice in college decision-making? Many are long-serving employees of the college; they play a vital role in the success of the college. At the same time, many are among the most economically vulnerable members of the college community, which makes it all the more important for them to have a place at the table in decisions relating to the future of the college.
- What would be the faculty's ideal communication process? What would the board's ideal process be? How can we meld the voices of many without having to funnel it through one single mouthpiece (president) but still keep efficiency in the process?
- How does and should the Board of Trustees share information (plans, vision) with faculty and the rest of the College?
- What recourse do faculty have when there are concerns or disagreement about decisions made by the Board and President?
- How can the faculty be recruited as a collaborator with the Board, President, and Cabinet on decisions regarding the future of the College, student body composition, recruitment, etc.?
- How do we resolve conflicting powers? (E.g., only the faculty can end a major, but a provost can eliminate faculty lines, thereby rendering programs unviable.)
- How do separate things that are policy vs. things that are just good practice?
- What is the best way to communicate with the faculty--what is the official means of communication with faculty--Faculty-L, etc.?
- What mechanism can be put in place to ensure ongoing communication among all constituents so that new members of the community can get up to speed and changes can be discussed by all?
- Whatever happened to the office of ombudsmen on campus
- Can we find additional mechanisms for interactions between faculty, administration, and board members to increase community? Can we have more opportunities for social interactions?
- We lack a clear conduit to the board that doesn't go through the president. Is there a way that the board can be aware of questions or issues that have not been addressed via communication through the president? For example, there could be an onbudsman to convey issues to a board contact--not to answer the question or resolve the issue, but to ensure the issue is addressed. We (faculty, staff, administration, etc.) need a mechanism for communicating with the board in a formal and professional way. The onbudsman needs to be a neutral party---not someone who makes budget or personnel decisions.
- We'd like to see transparency about budget decisions and changes regarding previously announced decisions. At times, it seems that information regarding these decisions is withheld. Clear communication and education regarding these issues could increase trust.
- What avenues for interaction between faculty and board members (both through their elected representatives and more generally) could we as a college agree on?
Background: over the years, the degree of interaction between faculty and the board has varied greatly. This variation has often been determined by who is the chair of the board and the college president. Having agreed standards based on best practices will help avoid this variation. Having these standards laid out in writing (e.g. in the faculty manual) will give them prominence.
- There is an impression that faculty expertise regarding how to carry about the mission of the college has been ignored.
Faculty want to be part of the conversation about emerging issues (MOOCs, etc.) and to not be treated as if their opinions are not as informed as people with a business-oriented background.
Faculty want to be involved not only in information gathering, but in decision making.
There is an understanding that faculty can’t be aware of all pertinent information; it’s unclear how to draw lines regarding expertise.
In some areas it’s clear where faculty input should be highly significant.
In particular, faculty would like to be informed about college finances, to be trusted to understand what they’re told and to be discreet when called for. Mixed messages have been very frustrating, which results in insecurity and a lack of trust. A common knowledge base would be productive. Some subset of faculty (for example, the budget committee) should be able to see a substantial amount of financial information, even if the full faculty doesn’t see everything.
It’s offensive to assume that others are needed to move the college forward because the faculty are too selfish or short-sighted to be communally minded.
How important is the assumption of good will on all parts to any real sense/performance of shared governance? How is that good will cultivated?
Who enforces a shared vision, preventing any group from acting unilaterally with impunity?
- How can the faculty be involved not only in helping guide the decisions concerning the allocation of resources, but also how the planning and process for budgeting and then funding are carried out? For example, changes in accounting procedures have thrown our department's planning into turmoil; it is difficult for us to plan ahead and know what monies will be there and which won't when we will not receive a definitive answer as to budget before sometime in November, well into the academic year. In order to manage our resources effectively and to maximize the benefit to our students, our faculty, and the campus community, we must have a more consistent and transparent budgeting and resources allocation process that allows us to plan ahead and count on funds to be there for a given year.
- Who are we leaving out of shared governance and how can we change that?
Non-VP administrators have no representation and no support staff.
To what extent does shared governance relate to these administrators? Are there mechanisms for representation of administrators? If so, what are they? If not, can we develop some? For instance, there is no non-VP administrator representation on HLC committee. There used to be one meeting of all administrators per semester facilitated by President Peterson and the cabinet that included announcements and discussion that supported and encouraged non-VP administers’ area.As faculty responsibilities are increasingly off-loaded to administrators, it becomes more critical that they have representation in shared governance forums.
- Board members and faculty members come from different cultures where there are different norms for communication. Faculty, coming from an academic background, are comfortable with a type of communication that can be open and even confrontational but in general academics leave still respecting their colleagues. Because many board members come from a corporate culture, their mode of of communication is more hierarchical with compartmentalization of information and public disagreement is seen as a threat. How can we overcome this dichotomy?