Colleges and universities today generally operate and make decisions through a system of shared governance.
Colleges and universities today generally operate and make decisions through a system of shared governance. Shared governance allows those affected by a new policy or change in an existing policy to be informed of this and have a voice in the discussions surrounding the forward momentum of a center for higher education. The entire university community, including faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni, collaborate about how changes or methods of operation may affect their respective roles at the university. Successful shared governance requires open and objective communication. The university administrators are responsible for the university vision under the plan according to Niedlich et al. (2019).
Faculty are the responsible agents of scholarship, service, and peer review. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of staff. Students are concerned with academic and student life issues. Alumni work to help solicit funds for programs of interest and overall institution financial viability. All parties commit both resources and time, which is necessary for success.In recent years college economic constraints have required colleges to analyze and update processes of their shared governance to account for partnerships, accountability, diversity, equity, and the ownership of these responsibilities according to Rosowsky (2020). Accountable actions by each component member of the shared governance model have become increasingly crucial as COVID-19 has caused constraints in how universities operate under the model. An increased need for online educational opportunities because of COVID-19 regulations has led to fewer students attending classes in a face-to-face model. Therefore, with fewer housed students, the university dorms are not filled, the campus dining hall receives decreased use, and fewer students are available to patronize campus stores and university athletics. Because of these constraints, more funds work to facilitate online instruction and teach faculty how to teach online. Fewer students on campus have lowered revenue for many institutions while costs for repair and maintenance of the physical plant have increased. Unimaginable constraints prior to the pandemic have required each player’s creativity in the shared governance model to ensure the viability of higher education at the respective institution according to Flaherty (2021).
Hass (2020) states that successful college operations require the proper management of constraints that may affect university viability. Managing constraints such as safety risks and controlling costs is the work of all players in some respect in a shared governance modality. Maintaining accreditation standards, solicitation of research funding, and alumni donations are the responsibility of many of these players. Constraints in research decreased funding because of a lack of donations regulations, and most recently, COVID-19 mandates have altered how shared governance works in the university setting.
In the United States, shared governance is a common model among higher education institutions. In this model, faculty manages academic decisions, administration manages the facility and resources, and the governing board is responsible for public accountability (McCaffery, 2018, p.49). The structure of shared governance is its first operational constraint. The typical organization of governing board, president, and faculty all serving the needs of students or society (Stoessel, 2013) has the challenge of finding an agreement on goals. The institution will have a mission and a vision, but each party may have its own interpretation. The governing bodies also have the challenge of agreeing on students’ needs.
Stoessel (2013) wrote that faculty might have been initially added to shared governance as a way to reduce their power. It can be difficult to find faculty consensus across different academic departments. From my personal experience, I find this very accurate. This is also highlighted in McCaffery’s (2018, p.39) summary of John Kay’s ‘8 oars of indecision – educational institutions have a pattern of being very slow to change.
The current generation of students has been forcing colleges and universities to make rapid changes among issues such as race, social injustice, mental health, and the cost of education (Patterson, 2021). While institutions are making changes to meet the demands of students, the consumers, the changes are reactive and not proactive.
Shared governance also has the challenge of overcoming conflict between faculty unions, collective bargaining, faculty senates, university administration, and state and federal government leadership changes (Williams-Munger, 2016). Especially for public institutions, local and federal politics have an influence on finances (Tandberg, 2013, p.532). Schools without significant endowments may struggle financially when annual budgets are reduced due to economic changes. It may take years for budget cuts to be restored. Currently, the only finalist to take over the role as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia is a former governor of Georgia and a former White House cabinet official with no educational leadership experience (Kelderman, 2022). In the past, the Georgia Board of Regents had not been successful in making policy changes in areas such as faculty tenure and disciplinary actions. It will be interesting to follow this case to see if now these policy changes are passed with the likely new chancellor.
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