We heard a lot of blame attributed to the “other” in our discussions: boards and presidents who see faculty decision making as too slow; presidents who feel that faculty want authority without accountability; faculty who criticize presidents for lack of communication and transparency, and who claim that their boards do not understand the institution; and boards who claim that they’re being kept in the dark about critical issues at the institution.
In all of our discussions—with trustees, presidents, and faculty members—seven words emerged with frequency: trust, collaboration, communication, transparency, inclusiveness, honesty, and integrity.
All groups emphasized that these concepts and behaviors were critical to successful and effective shared governance and, even more, to the health and vitality of the campus culture.
Two takeaways were clear from our discussions on these markers that indicate a healthy governance model: 1) They do not happen by accident but rather as the result of sustained and intentional efforts on the part of board, administration, and faculty leadership; 2) As noted earlier, when commitment to these principles are well established in the culture of the institution, the importance of formal structure retreats somewhat into the background. And, as we heard, commitment to upholding these principles is a prerequisite factor for boards, presidents, and faculty to consider new approaches to institutional challenges and opportunities without innate opposition.