Great article in Inside Higher Ed last Friday from the former President of Wellsley. Having now worked both sides of the aisle, I have a great appreciation for the balancing act that is “shared governance” and how often the reality diverges from the ideal. Some of that is in the nature of shared power, and some is a by-product of the nature of faculty and administrative work. In any case, Pres. Walsh argues, persuasively, I think that we can’t be stuck in old ways:
Over the next decade, colleges and universities are likely to need greater flexibility, organizational resilience and openness to new ideas, and, at the same time, stronger internal systems of shared responsibility, accountability, collaboration and communication. They will need to become more fluid learning organizations, better positioned to capitalize on the forces of change, and better able to make and defend potentially divisive choices, while remaining true to the purposes that will ensure continued success.
I’m sure part of the reason I like this is that it resonates with a quote I hung in my office and distributed to the faculty:
Engaging in, rather than avoiding, conversation about the raveled edges of contemporary higher education can rejuvenate initial enthusiasm and provide hope for the future. We might find answers to some of our questions: How did education become a series of impersonal transactions between fragmented purveyors and consumers of learning? Why have we allowed fear of failure and lack of hospitality to reinforce each other? Why have we failed to deal with the chronic malcontents among us-those whose negative spirituality drains vitality and energy from the academy? Why do so many faculty profess their right and their desire to be involved in governance issues only to disappear when it is necessary to commit time and energy? Why do so many administrators become inaccessible and secretive? (John Bennett: Academic Life)