Faculty Governance

What is Shared Faculty Governance? Why is it important?

At Downstate the Local “University Senate” has customarily been called the “Centerwide Assembly of Faculty and Professional Staff”. There is an Executive Committee of 20 members, two Presiding Officers elected from each of the five Schools/Colleges and four University Senators and four Alternate Senators elected by the Full Assembly. The Senators are elected for a three-year term. Each of the Senators votes in the SUNY University Faculty Senate (UFS) at Plenary meetings three times a year. There are also two (non-voting) Student members on the Executive Committee. The Centerwide is advisory to the President of Downstate and the UFS is advisory to the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees of SUNY.

The 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is still the bedrock of the principles by which Universities should be governed.

In this document it lays out that Faculty should have primacy for their opinion in matters of curriculum standards, research and hiring to the faculty. They should also be consulted in a more advisory role in other matters of local policy. Students are also to be consulted in policies related to student’s affairs. SUNY endorses this position as this appears in the “Joint Statement on Shared Governance for the State University of New York” endorsed by the University Faculty Senate, the Student Assembly and the Faculty Council of Community Colleges.

Certain “Threshold Conditions” for success must be in place for effective Faculty Governance. The culture of the interaction between Administration and Faculty must include:

  1. Trust
  2. Collaboration
  3. Communication
  4. Transparency
  5. Inclusion
  6. Honesty
  7. Integrity
  8. Respect

In an in depth survey of 10 institutions carried out by Dr. David Maxwell a fellow of the “Association of Governing Bodies” (which represents Presidents and Boards of Trustees of several institutions) it was concluded that without this culture in place the institution will fail in governance and also probably fail the accreditation of the Middle States Commission. Where the School culture was good there were no problems with Faculty Governance and all sides were happy with the way it worked. He also noted that in institutions that entered a crisis, it was a very bad time to discover that their Faculty Governance was not working.

The theme of SUNY Voices conferences on Faculty Governance is that Faculty must participate in a broad range of decisions or their role will be taken away from them.  If a school fails academically, it is the fault of the faculty and so they must have insisted on a primary role in this function to accept the blame (if they did not get involved in the curriculum they may deserve the blame).