Chair Talk 4.2-Shared Governance

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chair Talk 4.2              Shared Governance

The first Faculty Senate meeting of the year (next Monday) will begin with a re-signing of the “Guidelines for Shared Governance,”, a Memo of Understanding first agreed to by then-President Likins and faculty leaders 20 years ago.  This symbolic act reconfirms that “in an era of significant educational change, the success of the University and the positive morale of the faculty and administration are dependent upon continued use of the collective intelligence of the university community in planning and decision-making.”

Many faculty are, understandably, skeptical about such statements because we are well aware of decisions made without the benefit of ‘collective intelligence’ during the past two decades – including some in the past few years.  But I believe that the faculty have more of a voice in what happens at the UA than is the case at most universities in the United States, and the coming year will be a strong test of this hypothesis.  My belief is based on what I hear from colleagues at other institutions, and is supported by conversations with a number of individuals who have recently come to the UA from elsewhere – they almost uniformly comment on how much more of a voice faculty have here than at their prior institutions.  We have particular individuals to thank for this state of affairs, in particular senior administrators who see the virtue in accessing our collective wisdom and have made certain that this happens regularly even in the face of occasional challenges from external stakeholders.

Make no mistake about it, the President, Provost and other senior leaders are empowered by the Regents to make decisions, and they are ultimately held accountable for the ones they make.  While faculty input is sought out, and taken seriously, we do not have a veto.  But we do have plenty to say, and in the coming year there will be lots to talk about.

Our new President will shortly be launching a strategic planning exercise, as is usually the case when administrations change.  Faculty, and indeed the entire university community, will have the opportunity to get involved in this process and I strongly encourage all of you to do so. President Robbins is hoping for broad participation in crafting a vision for the future, so that he has a compelling story to take on the road as he seeks to acquire the resources needed to turn this vision into reality.  As I mentioned in my previous Chair Talk, we will not be re-inventing the UA.  When I asked President Robbins what had surprised him in his first month at the UA he quickly mentioned the incredible strength of the faculty.  He knew we were good, but he was pleasantly surprised to see up close just how good we really are.  The strategic plan will reflect these already existing strengths, and others that we need to build.  If done right, the plan will reflect the frequently-stated but infrequently acted-upon view that “we cannot do everything, and we have to make some tough choices.”

I urge you to take an active part in the making of these tough choices by expressing your views about what the UA should be next year, five years from now, and beyond.   Exactly how to do that will be made clear once the planning process has been discussed, designed, and implemented.  The success of a new plan will hinge on how broadly it is accepted, which in turn will depend on how broadly our community engages in developing it.

The Shared Governance Memorandum of Understanding to be signed on Monday speaks to our sense of community – and our ability to come together as a community suffers from the absence of sufficient communal spaces.  Some of you know we have been struggling for years to build a University Club near or on campus, a place where members of the UA family can gather for lunch, an afternoon coffee or tea, or even a beer or wine (later in the day perhaps).  Many of us want a space where events linking us to our community, and reflecting the best of what we are, can be held.  We had a promising plan involving a Club to be created on the top floor of a yet-to-be-built hotel.  This project has been ‘the future’ for nearly four years now, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m happy to say that with the enthusiastic support of President Robbins, we are beginning to consider other, even more exciting alternatives.  In an upcoming Chair Talk I will return to the University Club project, and discuss how we intend on keeping the dream alive this year and beyond.  There will be events providing opportunities for us to gather, share ideas, and interact with colleagues from all parts of the UA.  Stay tuned for details soon!

Hope your first week of Fall 2017 is going well.  

Lynn Nadel
Chair of the Faculty