Magazine article Academe

Academic Governance

Magazine article Academe

Academic Governance

Article excerpt

THE FUTURE of traditional academic governance is uncertain.

By traditional, I mean the type described in the jointly formulated 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which asserts the necessity of "shared responsibility" and "joint effort" among an institution's faculty, administration, and board and specifies the primary responsibilities of each.

The future is uncertain, in part, because fewer board members and presidents seem to believe in joint effort, seeking instead to escape whenever possible from the "inescapable interdependence" described in the statement. The ugly results-sham presidential searches, dissolution of faculty senates, and summary dismissals of faculty-have damaged traditional governance.

We face political and ideological threats, too, most recently in the form of political litmus tests for hiring faculty and state bills to eliminate tenure. Just prior to these abhorrent developments, an enterprising young conservative created the "Professor Watchlist," a blacklist of faculty who supposedly "advance a radical agenda in lecture halls." Political interference in academia has reached the point where it is frighteningly easy to imagine the commander in chief himself meddling in an institution's governance, perhaps by tweeting "YOU'RE FIRED!!!" at faculty who displease him.

And then there are the well-documented structural and economic factors that continue to weaken academic governance: shamefully low levels of state funding for public universities; overreliance on non-tenure-track faculty; the growing insistence that faculty use academic technology in the conduct of their courses; administrative bloat; and the appointment of individuals with little or no academic experience to chancellorships, presidencies, and other high-level administrative positions. This is not an exhaustive list.

Finally, cultural changes threaten academic governance. …

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