CSU Study on System-wide Shared Governance

Executive Summary


The purposes of the Study on System-wide Shared Governance are to suggest policies, procedures, and practices that can strengthen shared governance in the CSU at the system level and to engender discussion among California State University (CSU) constituencies to improve system-wide shared governance.

Largely through the results of surveys of CSU academic leaders and through interviews with experts nationwide and system leaders of the CSU, a set of suggestions for improving governance has been distilled.

The survey found strong support for the value of shared governance in all groups, administrators and faculty alike. It also indicated strong support for the ideal of mutual trust and openness but found that the perceived reality was far from what would be desirable. Attitudes and behaviors necessary to make shared governance work most often noted were trust, mutual respect, civility, honesty, truthfulness, early and effective communication, broad and frequent consultation, transparent processes, and open and frank discussion.

Faculty viewed administrators as having taken the initiative in the creation of academic policy relegating faculty to a reactive mode. Respondents often commented that informal structures of shared decision-making and communication are as powerful, if not more powerful, than the formal ones.

Survey responses stressed the need for improved communication at all levels. Good communication is widely recognized as essential for shared governance to function well. Open and transparent procedures help build trust and provide the necessary information to make good decisions. Decisions made behind closed doors or in isolation breed distrust and exacerbate "us v. them" attitudes.

Broad issues identified that should be at the core of future discussions are:

  1. Attitudes: Expect collegial behavior of faculty and administrators alike. Build trust and respect.

  2. Agenda: Set agendas jointly. Involve the Senate early and regularly in identifying policy issues and developing policy. Permit adequate time for consultation.

  3. Informal interactions: Develop more opportunities for informal interactions between faculty and administrators and trustees. Reduce the isolation of trustees from faculty.

  4. Communication: Study ways to improve communication among the system and its campuses, and to strengthen the Senate as a communication link.

  5. New Faculty: Encourage efforts to recruit new faculty participants in governance and train them in effective participation.

This report contains specific suggestions for improvement included recognizing the importance of participation in governance activities in personnel policies and by university leaders; orientation and training for faculty and new university leaders; evaluation of administrators based on their effectiveness in shared governance; greater faculty involvement in budget processes and in selection and evaluation of administrative leaders; greater consultation and collaboration regarding academic issues between faculty leaders and administrative leaders; joint establishment of agendas and issues to be addressed; allowing adequate time for formal consultation and assuring the timeliness of responses for urgent matters; increased informal contact between Board of Trustee members and faculty leaders; hiring professional staff for the Senate; improved communication and interaction among campus and system senates and administrative leaders; establishing a task force to recommend specific improvements in system-wide communication.

The full report, including appendices, will soon be placed on the CSU Senate web site.

Vince Buck
James Highsmith

May 10, 2001

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