Shared Governance Panel Points to Developing Policies at MC

By Kyla Guilfoil, Editor-in-Chief 

The Manhattan College Shared Governance Working Group hosted a forum with guest speakers Steven Bahls, president of Augustana College, and Mark Criley, senior program officer at the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance for the AAUP, on Wednesday, March 23. 

The forum allowed Bahls and Criley to share their expertise on shared governance and offer suggestions to MC’s developing shared governance structure. MC faculty, administrators and students also posed questions to the pair following their presentation. 

Bahls, who has written extensively for The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), began the presentation, and was followed by Criley, who offered viewpoints from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

At the forum, Bahls explained that he believed a culture of transparency and open communication is necessary for effective, fair government. Part of that communication, he stated, has to do with establishing a shared view of what shared governance is. 

“AGB believes that one of the challenges associated with shared governance is that we don’t agree on what shared governance is, and urges institutions to work diligently to develop definitions of shared governance as you are,” Bahls said. 

Bahls added that the AGB emphasizes a need for continual review of shared governance, in order to make sure that colleges are efficient and action oriented in their processes. 

In his presentation, Criley explained that the AAUP emphasizes the importance of recognizing the different roles within an institution of higher education, and how each of the roles – whether it be faculty, administration, board member or student – are critical to the process of shared governance. 

Criley added that it is essential for there to be faculty representation at every level of governance, and faculty representation must therefore be elected by the faculty themselves. 

At the forum, Calissa McNeely, student government’s vice president of academic affairs, asked the speakers about the role of students in shared governance. 

“Referencing the student status on AAUP website, it states students expect to have the right to expect that the educational process will be structured,” McNeely said. “What is your recommendation for students to advocate for a better structure when their voice is already limited? Also keeping in mind that although faculty have a fair amount of student interaction, they’re already advocating for themselves and possibly risk minimizing or misrepresenting the student voice and policies while they’re already trying to do so much to have their own voice heard.” 

Bahls and Criley both responded to explain that the AGB and AAUP do not have very detailed student roles outlined in their recommendations of shared governance, but that student issues are of great importance. 

Marisa Passafiume, assistant vice president for academic success, asked the speakers about the role of administrators in shared governance. 

Bahls explained that administrative participation is encouraged in shared governance structures, especially within areas that certain administrators have particular expertise. Criley built upon this, and stated that the AAUP does not regard administrators as faculty, and therefore do not look to those in administrative ranks to be placed as faculty representatives. Rather, Criley encouraged administrators to use their specific expertise to help in those problem areas, but discouraged them from functioning in shared governance in the way that faculty members should. 

Provost Steven Schreiner asked Bahls and Criley for their advice in overcoming disagreements and challenges that may arise within shared governance structures, in order to best approach community issues across campus. 

Bahls began by acknowledging that there will never be a perfect shared governance structure or process. However, he recommended that the college focus on both larger issues, as well as lower level problems that may be overlooked or underestimated. Criley agreed with Bahl’s sentiments, adding that the college should maintain principles that it can orient itself around whilst making decisions at both larger and smaller levels. 

Margaret Groarke, chair of the Council of Faculty Affairs and a professor of political science, attended the open forum. She told The Quadrangle that she had wished there was a bigger turnout for such an important event.

“I found it reassuring that both speakers emphasized that faculty representatives should be chosen by, and accountable to, the faculty,” Groarke told The Quadrangle. “I strongly believe that the best decisions are made when we involve all relevant stakeholders. I know that the college will be at its best as an institution when we draw on the knowledge and experience of all different sectors of the college in making decisions. As a faculty leader, I am involved in shared governance and constantly involved in improving our use of shared governance practices.”