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What Board Members Need To Know About Faculty

By Cathy A. Trower and R. Barbara Gitenstein

Hard Copy




Changes in higher education require input and support from leaders across the campus—especially the board, the president, and the faculty. In American colleges and universities, this collaboration is known as shared governance. In order to engage effectively in shared governance with the president and the faculty, board members need to understand who the faculty are, what they do, how they are organized, and when they should be involved in institutional leadership and governance.
This publication offers a succinct overview of the role that the faculty plays in their institutions, important features of their work lives—including shared governance, academic freedom, tenure, faculty governing bodies, and, at some institutions, unions—and changes taking place on campus to help board members better understand their counterparts in shared governance. Highlights include:

  • Trends regarding full- and part-time faculty and instructional staff employment status;
  • Explanation of faculty designations, workloads, and responsibilities;
  • Commonly cited pros and cons of tenure;
  • 5 best practices to enhance faculty-board engagement; and
  • 9 discussion questions for the board regarding faculty.

“Enlightened leaders realize that great leadership is truly shared.  This publication can help  board members better understand the work of faculty, a critical partner in shared governance.  Boards and presidents must rely heavily on a responsible faculty to meet the many challenges that collectively face us.”
–Richard Reif, former CEO & President, Doylestown Hospital; Member, Board of Trustees, Delaware Valley College



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