Linda Suskie

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Do today's colleges need shared institutional governance?

Posted on January 10, 2015 at 3:55 PM

I have not yet read Bowen and Tobin’s new book Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in te Governance of Higher Education. But its publication reminded me that my new book Five Dimensions of Quality includes a chapter called “A Community of People” that addresses many of the governance issues that Bowen and Tobin talk about.

 

There are plenty of non-profit organizations that operate successfully without higher education’s governance model. So do today’s colleges really require a traditional system of shared, collegial institutional governance?

 

I define institutional governance as a balance of power, akin to the system of checks and balances enshrined in the United States constitution, that leads to what Richard Morrill calls “collaborative, integrated decisions.” When the balance of power gets out of whack, morale, time, and energy are sapped, and high turnover and a chaotic campus environment can result. These kinds of problems don’t kill a college, but they take time, energy, and resources away from more critical issues, such as improving the quality of students’ educational experiences.

 

There’s no one best model for institutional governance, but the best ones I’ve seen share the following traits: respect, communication (listening as well as telling), collaboration, professional growth and development, and documentation. And, yes, today’s colleges need all of those in abundance.

 

Categories: Ideas

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