Shared governance has been a recurring topic throughout the campus conversation and criticism of Gustavus’ decisionmaking practices. Recently, the Board of Trustees, administration, and faculty met to begin the first of three discussions focused on the topic of shared governance.
The meetings seek to clearly outline and define responsibilities and areas of involvement for the Board of Trustees, administration, and faculty; the three parties primarily involved in the discussions.
According to Dan Currell ‘94, a member of the Board of Trustees, planning for the discussions on shared governance began last year, with the intention of placing the conversations in parallel with the processes of the presidential search.
“I think having a series of conversations like this, and one of the reasons that we’ve got to have conversations like this, is that I think there’s a decent chance that if you get everybody speaking honestly enough about it, on a sustained basis, that we’ll all be able to see a way forward that is productive,” Currell said.
Faculty Senate Chair Max Hailperin mentioned that faculty members were prompted to submit comments and issues for discussion in September, and that subsequent small group sessions served to promote discussion and increase the number of perspectives offered in relation to areas of concern.
“It is clear that the faculty have deep involvement and a right to be involved in things like curriculum, and faculty status. What’s less clear is exactly how faculty and administration and board are supposed to work together on things like buildings and budgets and new initiatives, and salaries, and that stuff,” Currell said.
Friday’s discussion centered on the topic of “Why We Work Together.” The upcoming meetings in November and December will aim to address “How We Work Together,” and “Our Roles in Working Together” in respective sessions.
“There’s this kind of mutually supporting web of reinforcing reasons why shared governance is important. It’s important as a way to make better decisions, it’s important as a way to gain greater acceptance of the decisions that have been made, and it’s important for some of its collateral effects that it’s had on us as participants completely aside from the decisions,” Hailperin said.
Currell, Hailperin, and Dean of the College and Provost Mark Braun, all offered favorable reactions following the first discussion on Friday.
“I thought it was a very productive discussion and was pleased with the turnout, and I thought we really nicely laid the groundwork for the subsequent discussions. That is, we were able to have very good discussions about how we can discharge our shared responsibility in response to the mission of the college by better understanding why it is that we need to work together,” Braun said.
At the conclusion of the final meeting in December, a committee comprised of three faculty members, three board members, and two administrators will capture the results of the discussions into a single document, which will then be resubmitted to the groups involved for further commentary. According to Hailperin and Braun, the committee also intends to invite a retired president from another academic institution to contribute an additional perspective to the process.
Beyond providing clarification for the roles of the board, faculty, and administration, the final products of the conversation and discussion may be utilized in tandem with the presidential search process.
“We thought it would be very helpful for the presidential search committee to be able to bring to their candidates, a vision of what we were looking for. We want candidates who value the same style of governance that we value as an institution, which is going to help ensure a good fit. It’s going to provide them confidence that they’re coming to a place that will accept them in a harmonious fashion,” Hailperin said.
Transparency and inclusiveness will be priorities during the process, and Currell expressed the potential impact that student involvement will have in the process.
Branching beyond curriculum based responsibilities for faculty members to provide a clear and unified vision for the leadership of Gustavus. Those involved in these conversations about shared governance strive to shape the discourse and nature of decision making for the years to come.
“People are approaching the task at hand in a very respectful and collegial atmosphere, and already it feels to me that we will see benefits from this process towards better understanding in the future,” Braun said.
Information pertaining to the discussions is available on the Gustavus website, including agendas for the next two meetings, relevant external documents, and summaries of topics discussed.