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A New Approach to Shared Governance

A New Approach to Shared Governance

Steven C. Bahls is the president of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. He has written extensively about shared governance in higher education. His writings having been published in numerous scholarly law journals, as well as in Trusteeship, the Huffington Post, Inside Higher Education, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The most important benefit of an effective system of shared governance is moving from the traditional, input-oriented means of viewing governance to the more evolutionary, outcomes-oriented view of shared governance required by the transformational changes we’re seeing in higher education today.

Shared governance, at its best, creates alignment between board members, faculty members, and administrators that addresses the most important issues facing colleges and universities.

What is shared governance? AGB's president Rick Legon provides the answer in this AGBU video.

Alignment is best achieved when all parties stop spending time rehashing territorial disputes over inputs and begin holding all accountable for the best possible outcomes. I take every opportunity I can to urge the faculty, staff, and board at Augustana College to shift their thinking from inputs-orientations to a dozen outcomes-orientations as a way of achieving the most productive alignment: It is not always easy for an institution firmly ensconced in the traditional footing of stasis and preservation to move to the more evolutionary approach of accepted change and expected dynamism. Doing so requires boards, faculty, and presidents to work together in developing a culture of transparency and open communication.

Strong lines of communication are necessary in order to confront the difficult issues facing the institution and build the strategies to address them.

An outcomes orientation helps all constituencies identify appropriate metrics to measure success. And the trust built by open communication and aligned expectations helps to facilitate the development of the effective set of checks and balances that is needed to ensure that the institution remains mission-focused.

For more on shared governance, see AGB Press's new publication Shared Governance in Times of Change: A Practical Guide for Universities and Colleges, by Steven C. Bahls.

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