Sharing GovernanceIn the nuanced context of shared governance, how do leaders of AASCU institutions engage faculty colleagues in productive discussions that ultimately move the institution forward?
We tend to think about shared governance not so much when it is working well, but rather when it comes to a flashpoint. In 2014, shared governance reached a combustible state in two prominent cases.
In both Connecticut and Minnesota, major new initiatives to reform public higher education at the system level ran into fervid opposition from faculty. Key concerns include skepticism about online learning, fears about eroding curricula, and general opposition to centralization of authority at the system level. At the end of 2014, the Connecticut plan appeared stalled. In Minnesota, the state’s two faculty unions pulled out of discussions about the system’s proposed reforms.
While extreme, these examples underscore the challenges that administrators and faculty have in reaching common ground through shared governance. Realities like constrained appropriations, cost containment, and the increased use of contingent faculty further pressurize the challenges of working cooperatively on campus.
Administrators and faculty do not always agree, of course, on what topics even belong in shared governance in the first place. James Duderstadt, a prominent past president of the University of Michigan, spoke to the heart of that divide when he addressed leaders of research universities more than 12 years ago. Faculty governance, Duderstadt said, “…continues to be both effective and essential for academic matters such as curriculum development, faculty hiring, and tenure evaluation. But it is increasingly difficult to achieve true faculty participation in broader university matters such as finance, capital facilities, or external relations. The faculty traditions of debate and consensus building, along with the highly compartmentalized organization of academic departments and disciplines, seem incompatible with the breadth and rapid pace required in today’s high momentum university-wide decision environment. Most difficult and critical of all are those decisions that concern institutional transformation…..” Such tensions seem eternal.
Working at the nexus of sometimes opposing forces, university presidents must navigate between internal campus needs and politics and the world at large. The competing demands of multiple stakeholders intensify the challenges of making shared governance work. So a pivotal question might be this: How do presidents navigate the highly nuanced and complicated context of shared governance, making sure that relevant voices are heard and key issues considered, but also ensuring that the discussions feed decisions that move the institution forward? In other words, how do presidents make shared governance work?
Combatting Sexual Assault on Campus
Simple actions could save the next girl. Anything from speaking out against a sexist comment or suddenly turning off loud music at a party to spilling a drink on a would-be aggressor could be enough to create a distraction that may prevent the next girl—or the next guy— from becoming another sexual assault statistic.
When incoming freshmen and transfer students arrive on the Fitchburg State University (Mass.) campus for orientation, they are required to participate in the Bystander Intervention Program to learn practical strategies for safely stepping in when they think someone might be in danger. Sponsored by FAVE—Fitchburg Anti-Violence Education—the program also includes a presentation of Drawing the Shades, a student-directed play relating the experiences of sexual assault survivors. If students don’t attend the sessions, a hold is placed on their account to prevent them from registering for the next semester until the requirement is completed.
“There’s an expectation that this is what you do if you’re a Fitchburg State University student,” says FAVE co-director Erin Travia, who also is assistant director of the university’s Counseling Services Office. “We all play a role in keeping our community safe, and that message is really part of our campus culture. We are all FAVE. It’s the community standard here.”
FAVE is a campus-wide initiative designed to prevent interpersonal and relationship violence, sexual assault, and to support women and men affected by violence. A collaborative effort with departments across the university, FAVE strives to create a “safe and respectful community for all,” Travia says, by offering educational programs to promote healthy relationships and to empower victims and survivors of sexual assault. FAVE was established in 2010, thanks to a grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. Though the grant funding has ended, the university remains committed to the program.
FAVE provided a multi-faceted approach to prevention of sexual assault. The Ask First, Kiss Second social marketing campaign—illustrated with giveaways such as Hershey’s Kisses and chapstick—explains what consent means and emphasizes the importance of obtaining consent before engaging in any form of sexual contact. Each year, FAVE hosts a White Ribbon Day to support the international campaign that involves men in the effort to end violence against women, and partners with the university’s Counseling Services to support Take Back the Night to promote awareness about sexual assault. FAVE awards a few grants each year to faculty members who incorporate issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the classroom. And FAVE creates and distributes numerous marketing pieces to promote on- and off-campus resources and services for victims and survivors of sexual assault.
“We’re really trying to come at it from as many angles as we can, and want to do some of this work in the classroom,” says Beth Walsh, FAVE co-director and criminal justice professor. “FAVE is integrated into the culture here at the university—it’s part of the classroom and part of student life. FAVE is really a part of everyday life here on campus.”
Lessons in Lively LeadershipFrom stunt flying to photobombs, engaging with students in the 21st century is a whole new ball game. And it’s fun.
The college or university leader safely ensconced in the ivory tower is an image from a bygone era. Today’s presidential image? Maybe a selfie with the mascot that’s been posted to Instagram and has thousands of likes.
Social media has changed how presidents and chancellors engage with students and show their fun—and even wacky—side. Before social media, if the chancellor started boogying down during the convocation cookout—looking at you, Chancellor J. Keith Motley at University of Massachusetts Boston (and current AASCU Board Chair)—or did the Harlem Shake with hundreds of students on a campus plaza—kudos to you, President Les Wong at San Francisco State University (Calif.)—only the students and staff lucky enough to be at the event were witnesses. Not so now. Video and/or photos posted to social media can instantly let everyone in on the impromptu, merry moment.
That’s made it easier for presidents to showcase their lighter, funnier, more down-to-earth sides. Running a public college or university is a monumental task, but one of the most rewarding parts is when presidents get to genuinely interact and connect with students.
A Laser-like Focus on First-Generation Success
In late May, just a week after wildfires forced the evacuation of our campus and the postponement of our commencement ceremony, I presided over the graduation of 2,794 students. Among them was Cipriano Vargas, a student member of the California State University board of trustees appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, who was receiving degrees in sociology and women’s studies. And like more than 1,452 of his fellow graduates celebrating with him that day, he was a first-generation college student.
In total, 52 percent of our 2014 graduating class at CSU San Marcos comprised first-generation students. It’s a fact of which I am incredibly proud, and it’s no accident. Our success is the result of great intentionality, a true commitment to serving our region, and more than 10 years of work.
Building Your Senior LeadershipTeamPresidents & Practices
One of the most important responsibilities of a university president is to appoint talented senior leaders. In my first 18 months at California State University, Fresno, I have had the opportunity to appoint three vice presidents, a chief of staff, and a Division I athletic director.
I learned a great deal from this experience. Here are some insights that may be useful to you.
Raise the bar. Set high standards. It is imperative that you find the person you believe is best equipped to assume leadership at this unique time. While there may be time, market or other pressures that exist, do not yield to them if they compromise your ability to find the right person.
Model transparency. Be clear about what you want. It is imperative to be transparent about skill sets that are particularly important to you. For example, you may believe that the position needs a fresh perspective possessed only by someone from outside of the campus or academy. Share your views with the search firm, search committee, and the community and transparently build consensus for the right type of candidate.
University of the Future Will Be International, High-Touch and High-TechEndsights - Excerpted from a speech delivered October 27, 2014 at Pannasastra University of Cambodia
I have been chancellor of Troy University (Ala.) since 1989. For more than two decades I have witnessed the internationalization of American higher education. Given the global nature of higher education, our U.S. universities are more reliant on partnerships with international universities than at any time in history. The university of the future will be built upon these partnerships.
Students must be competitive at a global level. It is no longer sufficient to serve your native population. All students benefit from exposure to classmates from other cultures, traditions and faiths. We must understand the people of the world in order to appreciate them.
Troy University is reaching around the globe to serve the world’s people. For example, in 2008, Troy was the first American university to award the bachelor’s degree in Vietnam, where we enroll 600 students.
A few years ago, I received an email from a member of our first graduating class in Vietnam that illustrates this global village. Duc Dang is a native of Hanoi. He said his Troy degree made it possible for him to be hired by Samsung, a Korean company, and he now works as a rising executive growing his company’s market in China. Education is truly the key to success in any nation.