Shared Governance

Throughout my administrative career I served in two colleges that include the Military Science Department.  Both colleges have regular weekly Department Chair meetings and often entail discussions of shared governance topics such as faculty evaluation, establishing policy, making decisions concerning resource allocation, or other factors affecting working conditions for faculty.  I always find it interesting to watch the Military Science Chair when these discussions occur.  I now have worked with four different Military Science Chairs and I’m convinced their reaction is not a matter of personality but one of organizational philosophy.  It is humorous to see the looks of disbelief, amazement, and downright skepticism as the rest of us openly negotiate and include faculty in discussions of how they will be evaluated, what their workload looks like, along with other policies and conditions impacting the working context.  Apparently, and it really does not need to be said, the military looks at organizational structure and function from a different paradigm.


I also have friends working in the private sector.  Many businesses and corporate entities do not practice or value input from those on the front line.  In fact, shared governance and responsibility is neither a priority nor practice in many, if not most, sectors of our economy.  Working in academia, particularly in a tenured or tenure-earning position, is unique for many reasons, one of which is the basic principle of shared governance including the right, privilege, and responsibility for faculty involvement in many aspects of fundamental decision-making at a university.


I often am asked to find faculty to serve on various department, college, and university committees, task forces, and work groups.  While most faculty willingly accept these requests, it is not uncommon to hear other faculty resist service and balk at being on yet another committee. 


While shared governance through university service might be considered drudgery or the work of others, I think it is important to remember the unique nature of our occupational structure in contemporary society.  We primarily are governed by ourselves and colleagues.  We all have the privilege, as well as responsibility, to provide thoughtful input on policies, procedures, evaluations, and other elements having profound influence on the quality and condition of our work environment and university organization. 


Faculty workloads are expected to balance teaching, research/scholarship, and service.  We need to realize university service is not only an expected part of our workload, but represents participation in a shared governance paradigm that is long-standing, valued, and a unique characteristic of a university.  While contemporary higher education is rife with problems, issues, and reasons to be disgruntled, there also is something very exciting, rewarding, and special that comes with working in a context where we share and explore ideas and intellectual stimulation.  We have the opportunity to work with young (and not so young) students in a teaching and learning context, continually experience the thrill of discovery inherent in research and scholarship, and provide meaningful input on the policies, structure, and processes impacting the quality of our work environment through shared governance.

 Karl Kunkel

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: