Magazine article Academe

Shared Governance under Fire: Reform and Renewal

Magazine article Academe

Shared Governance under Fire: Reform and Renewal

Article excerpt

Arguably, no topic other than tenure has been as hotly debated in academe as the governance of colleges and universities. Almost a century ago, critics such as Upton Sinclair and Thorstein Veblen criticized the corporate nature of the academy and the power of governing boards. Various reports and commissions throughout the twentieth century called for the diminution of the faculty's role in governance so that academic decision making might become more nimble, lithe, and decisive. Presidents are criticized for having too little or too much power. Paradoxically, during the multitude of calls for reform, American higher education has become the envy of the world. Although self-criticism and healthy dialogue and debate should always be welcome, it also might be useful for us once in a while to acknowledge that we must have been doing something right.

How do we need to govern in the future, given the wealth of challenges that confront us? It is with this question that we offer here a series of articles about the current state of governance in the academy. We, of course, cannot cover every imaginable topic. We offer the articles in order to be provocative rather than prescriptive. Gary Engstrand of the University of Minnesota discusses the role of academic staff (individuals who are not administrators, faculty, or professional staff) and how they might be involved in academic work. They are the fastest-growing group in academe and increasingly want a voice in governance. Minnesota's Faculty Senate has taken steps to ensure power sharing, but also to maintain the faculty's central voice.

James Hearn and Michael McLendon discuss one of the more vexing problems in academe-state open-meetings and -records laws. …

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