The Changing Face of Faculty and Governance

Article excerpt

AS FACULTY AND STUDENTS return to campus in the fall, new faculty will be joining all of our faculty assemblies. Older and younger, representing different generational groups and practice backgrounds, new faculty members bring to our educational systems a diversity of thoughts and beliefs about governance. Unlike new faculty in other disciplines, for whom higher education is their first professional position, nurse faculty bring their governance experiences from practice. What may not be problematic for a new professor of English may raise serious questions for an experienced nurse who joins the academy from a for-profit, not-for-profit, or private practice setting.

One of the first challenges for new faculty is to know what issues reside within the province of faculty governance. Since these individuals are becoming teachers amidst significant external pressure for rapid change in our pedagogies, degree programs, and enrollments, what is within the purview of faculty governance appears to be challenged. New faculty may view degree changes or enrollment increases as inevitable because they do not know that these decisions are faculty, not professional or corporate, governance issues.

It is difficult for those who have not had faculty experience to understand that one change can and will transform a specific setting. Moreover, crafting satisfying solutions is difficult for those who do not know the range of options. For example, accelerating a program could mean a costly second curriculum, but it may only require change to the schedule without significant change to program content. Revisioning and rethinking present challenges even for the most seasoned faculty.

Deciphering how decisions are made is often difficult for new faculty. Their experienced colleagues may refer an issue to a committee, not as a way to kill the issue, but as the most expedient way to refine the solution. When wise faculty members mention that "X" may pose a problem for a university graduate council, they are not necessarily pronouncing the issue dead. Rather, they may be signaling the need for quiet diplomacy with their colleagues in other disciplines. It is quite possible for new faculty to miss or misinterpret the subtle nuances of campus politics. Their experienced faculty colleagues who are expert politicians often fail to explain their reasoning because they are no longer consciously aware of why they make decisions in certain ways.

Socializing faculty into a faculty governance role is not a new issue. …