Topics Suggested by Faculty Members

Why We Work Together

  1. How does the specific academic meaning of shared governance, in which the faculty is accorded primary responsibility for certain areas based on their professional status, relate to the broader topic of ensuring that the college is a wisely managed enterprise that empowers all employees to contribute their insights and initiative?
  2. When administrative or Board business relates to the specific disciplinary expertise of a subset of the faculty, is consultation with those faculty members a matter of shared governance or just a smart idea?
  3. We often hear about the “problems” or “conflict” caused by shared governance (we did in the opening faculty meeting). What are the benefits of shared governance? How does shared governance strengthen the institution? What would an institution like Gustavus be without it?
  4. Does the Board think that the Gustavus tradition of shared governance has prevented the institution from moving forward? If so, how? Has it prevented the Board from increasing the endowment? If so, how? Has it prevented the Board from hiring a quality President? If so, how?
  5. The HLC report indicated that the institution needs to address governance concerns. When ask about exactly what the report said at the opening faculty meeting, Provost Braun did not remember exactly but said it was a brief and vague statement. So, what exactly did they say and could they have merely been indicating that the conflict between the current President and Faculty was hurting the institution and needed to be resolved?
  6. Does the board have any questions for the faculty? What do they want to know of our perspective on about shared governance?
  7. Does a college have to run like a corporation to survive? Or do we have a unique opportunity to set a standard of shared governance as a "better plan" for society?
  8. How has shared governance worked (and not worked) at other institutions?
  9. How does shared governance influence/inform policy and community and culture?
  10. There is a need for a clear process for priorities for the future that includes all constituencies.
  11. What is the Board’s opinion of and commitment to shared governance? To what extent do they value transparency? Some faculty feel that the greater the degree of transparency, the more faculty are empowered, the more invested they are in decisions, and the more responsibility they take on for decision-making. Are these benefits recognized by the Board? Do we need some kind of insurance that the Board will not try to revise the by-laws to dissolve the faculty manual?
  12. A Role-Playing game could provide a way to discuss topics in order to better understand varying perspectives from differing stakeholders. Each member of a discussion could take on the role of a different position, such as president, provost, faculty, administrator, etc

How We Work Together

  1. How should members of the college community communicate with the Board and its members and vice versa?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?

  8. 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.
  9. What I have observed here at GAC is a series of process breaches, in that,
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. "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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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?
  12. How does and should the Board of Trustees share information (plans, vision) with faculty and the rest of the College?
  13. What recourse do faculty have when there are concerns or disagreement about decisions made by the Board and President?
  14. 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.?
  15. 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.)
  16. How do separate things that are policy vs. things that are just good practice?
  17. What is the best way to communicate with the faculty--what is the official means of communication with faculty--Faculty-L, etc.?
  18. 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?
  19. Whatever happened to the office of ombudsmen on campus
  20. Can we find additional mechanisms for interactions between faculty, administration, and board members to increase community? Can we have more opportunities for social interactions?
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.

  24. 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?

  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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?

Our Roles in Working Together

  1. Faculty Manual Section 3.1.3 provides that such matters as the appointment of faculty members are primarily a faculty responsibility, with the Board and President generally expected to concur. How do we manage any disagreements with regard to what searches are covered by this or how large the non-faculty role in searches ought to be?
  2. Faculty Manual Section 3.1.4 indicates that the faculty participates through representatives on committees for such college-wide purposes as searching for a President and developing a budget. Given the phrase "for such purposes as," the list in that section is presumably not all-inclusive. How are new examples identified where faculty responsibility is present and hence the faculty should participate?
  3. Faculty Manual Section 3.1.4 indicates that the faculty "participates" in various areas where "faculty responsibility is present," even though responsibility extends far enough beyond the faculty that the leadership role is taken by the Board or administration. In such a context, how are the contours of participation defined so as to ensure that it is meaningful?
  4. The Faculty Manual provides processes for disciplining and dismissing faculty members. Are there any areas where these processes are inconsistent with the college's legal obligations, for example with regard to responding to complaints of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct? If so, how do we address those inconsistencies?
  5. The Faculty Handbook, which is unilaterally controlled by the faculty, describes some processes in which members of the administration play a role. (To cite one example, Section 1.2.10.C.1.f.3 provides that after the President decides whether to concur in a tenure recommendation, the Provost communicates this decision to the candidate.) How far can the faculty reasonably go in telling the administration what to do? How do we figure out whether we are currently on the right side of that line? How do we ensure that we stay on the right side in the future?
  6. Under what circumstances can the Board appropriately reclaim direct control over a matter ordinarily delegated to the President? Does this necessarily imply such a loss of confidence that a change in presidency is inevitable?
  7. Section 3.1.3 provides for the primary role of Faculty members in matters of faculty status. Should this not be the case? Has this not served the institution well? If not, does the Board have a different model in mind? If not, how has it not served the institution well? (If, perhaps, the Board is thinking about a few faculty who over time may lose their focus or passion for their job and as a result quality suffers, the authority to deal with such cases is already provided for in the Provost office and Faculty Personnel Committee/Faculty Senate as stated in the Faculty Manual. It has not been utilized very often.)
  8. Section 3.1.4 provides for faculty input into,
    1. The development of the college budget. Is it not in the best interest of the college to make sure that a formal mechanism exists so that those whose responsibility is to develop the budget are kept aware of the needs of the academic program and its centrality to the mission of the college? If not, why not?
    2. The review of the President and the Provost. Wouldn’t any quality review of these two positions involve formal faculty input into the process (and VP input for that matter)? If not, wouldn’t this be analogous to reviewing faculty performance without seeking input from students? If so, how would either of these strengthen the institution?
    3. The determination of faculty compensation. Faculty are on the frontline of hiring new faculty. Isn’t it in the best interest of the institution to have a formal mechanism whereby faculty input into what constitutes a competitive salary and benefits package is ensured so that the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty may continue? If such input is not in the best interest of the institution, why not?
  9. Clearer, more explicit language is needed in Faculty Manual Section 3.1.4 specifying the roles of the various parties, especially the Faculty, in the reviews of Presidents and Provosts. This raises questions of whether there should be a specified timeline for reviews of senior administrators, as there is for faculty members (a third-year review or something). Given the recent presidential review experience, a mandated third-year review involving an external consultant might not be a bad idea.
  10. What should the role of the faculty (and indeed the whole campus community) be in decisions regarding campus infrastructure, operations (financial and physical) and purchasing?

    The traditional view, and indeed, our administration structure reflects this, is that such decisions are the purview of the administrative hierarchy, which stewards those decisions and resources in support of the college's educational mission. At the same time, wider social, political, and economic questions (many directly related to our clearly stated values of community, faith, justice, excellence, and service), have often been connected with campus management and used to advocate for particular decisions.

    Examples include:

    • Investment of the endowment (historically, South African divestment, currently, divestment from fossil fuels)
    • Purchasing (ethical fair trade issues over clothing sources and food supply)
    • Operations (decisions about building and grounds infrastructure (energy conservation and wind turbine purchase) and operations (pesticide use on lawns) relative to environmental concerns)

    While these issues are in and of themselves complex and challenging, the campus conversation is usually complicated by the wider shared governance questions of "Who gets to decide?" and "What are the decision-making criteria?" Administrative responses are often framed to clearly articulate the ultimate responsibility and authority of the administration and the Board of Trustees over and against members of the community who insist that we should be consistent with our values as well as the facts and evidence we expect our students to respect in the classroom.

    Given that these tensions reoccur in many issues, a discussion of shared governance should address these issues so that future discussion of this nature can focus clearly on the issues at hand without repetitive reexamination of the "Who gets to decide?" and "What are the decision-making criteria?" questions.
  11. How will we understand the process with which key decisions are made? Certainly each constituency has, and should have, an arena of ultimate decision control. No organization functions without that delineation of authority. How will we delegate ultimate decision-making authority in the arenas that make sense for each constituency on campus? And by delegate, I mean real authority pushed to, and maintained with, that particular body.
  12. In shared governance, what are the roles of the board, the administration, VPs, president, deans, provost and the faculty senate? How/Who should decisions be made regarding curriculum? Budgeting? Hiring?
  13. What role does the faculty play in programmatic decisions (departmental mergers, closures, etc.)?
  14. What role does the faculty play in deciding how to distribute positions?
  15. Regarding the role of the faculty (and the campus community) in decisions regarding campus infrastructure, operations, and purchasing, there needs to be a process identified that is followed. Right now, money "jumps the line." Decisions should be made based on principle, not on what donors want to support.
  16. What are appropriate spheres of responsibility. What do we mean when we talk about accountability. When a rationale is requested and the response if “Because I think so”, how do we deal with that and/or prevent that kind of response?
  17. Faculty Manual Section 3.1.4 provides that “The faculty participates in College governance … through elected [emphasis added] representatives on standing or special committees for such purposes as the search for and periodic evaluation of the President and the Provost, the development of the College budget, and the determination of faculty compensation.” Likewise, the 1966 Statement on Government of College and Universities advises that “Faculty representatives should be selected by the faculty according to procedures determined by the faculty.”  Does this preclude the Board or administration from choosing specific faculty members to serve on committees or simply require such faculty members serve in addition to, rather than in place of, those the faculty chooses?