Academic Senate

Faculty to Faculty June 2016

A Message from ASCSU Chair
Steven Filling (Stanislaus)

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This Month's Issue
Front Page
Message from the ASCSU Chair
Report of the Faculty Trustee
Reports from Standing Committees

Academic Affairs
Academic Preparation &
   Education Programs
Faculty Affairs
Fiscal and Governmental

General Education Advisory Committee (GEAC)
Capitol Watch
The California State University Emeriti and Retired Faculty Association (CSUERFA)
Book Review - Lesson Plan
Resolution Summaries
It seems fitting to devote my final, outgoing, ASCSU Chair’s message to the topic of shared governance.  Below is the statement I made at the beginning of our May plenary discussion of shared governance with Chancellor White.  I hope that the 2016-2017 Senate will continue the conversation we began in May.
Some Wisdom from HEERA
“The Legislature recognizes that joint decision-making and consultation between administration and faculty or academic employees is the long-accepted manner of governing institutions of higher learning and is essential to the performance of the educational mission of such institutions and declares that it is the purpose of this act to both preserve and encourage that process…"
The Legislature promotes joint decision-making, robust consultation, and “the full exercise of the functions of the faculty in any shared governance mechanisms or practices”.
An excerpt from the Report of the Board of Trustees' Ad Hoc Committee on Governance, Collegiality, and Responsibility in the California State University (Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the CSU, September 1985) states: "Collegiality consists of a shared decision-making process and a set of values which regard the members of the various university constituencies as essential for the success of the academic enterprise."
The Faculty’s authority in joint decision-making is fundamentally grounded in the right to recommend and in the expectation that recommendations cannot be rejected without compelling reason.  Denying that right would undermine the authority of the faculty, which is grounded in our disciplinary expertise and our experience in teaching and learning.


To be more explicit - shared decision-making does not mean that any party to the process always prevails.  It means, rather, that when the parties disagree, e.g., when administration feels a faculty recommendation must be rejected, conversation ensues and compelling reasons for rejecting that recommendation are presented. Likewise, when faculty feel that an administrative decision should be modified, conversation ensues and compelling reasons for modifying the decision are presented.


The essence of shared decision-making lies in those conversations toward consensus, that is toward general agreement or concord, not necessarily complete agreement.  Obviously shared decision-making, indeed shared governance writ large, requires significant and reciprocal trust relationships.  Continued and open conversations are requisite to building and maintaining that trust.


As an example

Developing a response to the California Community College (CCC) BA Pilots last year.  CSU was given a ridiculously short timeline (a few days) by CCC, Chancellor's Office (CO) folks immediately talked with Senate leadership and we ended up with Chancellor White negotiating a longer review period with CCC Chancellor Harris. Subsequently each CSU campus senate and administration developed their own responses to the pilots (we note an amazing degree of concurrence across those responses).  The Senate and CO staff reviewed and summarized those recommendations and they went to the Chancellor’s office.  The eventual response to the CCC was not what the campuses recommended in the majority of cases, however, and this is one of the critical parts, Chancellor White provided what he felt were compelling reasons for divergence from the recommendations.  While not everyone agreed with those reasons, I think that’s an example of when governance worked.


As for why the Senate likes the term "shared governance" better than "shared leadership"

First, that’s the term used almost universally in our literature to indicate what we firmly believe to be the optimal mechanisms for leading and managing institutions of higher education.  It provides formal connection to what have been best practices in government of colleges and universities.


Second, we believe our enterprise, our primary mission, is provision of a public good. We also believe that institutions dedicated to public goods, using resources provided by the public and are accountable to the public, differ in character from for-profit business organizations.  While it is certainly true that management and leadership across the two types of organizations has a huge number of similarities, there are also differences.  When we hear “shared leadership” it sometimes seems that what we perceive as sharp differences between the two are being ignored.

As always, please feel free to contact me via email ( or phone (209-988-8256) with any questions, concerns or suggestions on these or any other issues.