The ongoing negotiations between NMU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and members of the administration have focused on several areas of contention. One of these being shared governance, the principal of faculty having a say in how the university is run.
“Shared governance is an approach to running a university in which the faculty is actively involved in setting and carrying out academic policy,” said Brent Graves, an NMU biology professor and the information officer for the AAUP.
Graves said that the principal of shared governance can be compared to the relationship between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the federal government.
“It exists so that there are checks and balances in the running of the university . They balance each other. The faculty and administration have different perspectives and sometimes different priorities,” he said.
Graves said that faculty involvement in the decision making process at the university level is important because each faculty member is an expert in his or her respective field.
“We’re not teachers, we’re professors. We are professors, not because we profess, but because we are professionals. I don’t just teach biology, I am a biologist,” said Graves. “Being an active professional in our field is very important.”
Graves said that the faculty should be involved in establishing guidelines for promotion and tenure standards for their peers. He also said that faculty should be involved extensively not only in the creation of these guidelines but also the evaluation of their colleagues.
“Promotion and tenure decisions should not be made independently and arbitrarily by the administration,” he said.
Some examples of how shared governance is implemented across campus are the hiring process for new faculty members, the creation of departmental bylaws and NMU’s Academic Senate. The Academic Senate is a collection of members of the faculty, administration and the Associated Students of NMU (ASNMU). The senate works together to set academic policy that can range from the creation of new programs of study to approving changes in course descriptions.
Andy Poe, an associate professor of computer sciences and the chair of the Academic Senate, said that the senate is a great example of shared governance on NMU’s campus.
“This is an example of shared governance because the faculty is involved in the process,” said Poe. “When the faculty is continually involved in the decision making process, that’s shared governance.”
Poe said that the AAUP has always endorsed the shared governance model of governing a university, which stresses that decisions are not reached solely by management but by cooperation between management and faculty.
“The faculty has a very big say in things like what programs will be offered, what courses will be taught and who gets tenure,” said Poe. “All of these things affect faculty members, and the faculty gets a say in these issues in the shared governance model.”
Shared governance is important to a university because it creates an emotional investment in the institution for faculty members, said Poe.
“I believe that in any organization, the people who work there should have a stake in the organization itself,” he said. “They feel that they are a part of it, and as a result they, of course, want to be involved in the decision making process. In my opinion, when they are, the institution is better as a result.”
Josh Corbat, a senior secondary education major and ASNMU vice president, is one of four student members of the Academic Senate. He said that across campus, shared governance is evident in committees that include members of the administration, faculty and student body.
“Everyone that is affected by a decision gets a chance to help make that decision,” said Corbat. “It helps bridge the gap between those parties.”
Corbat said that the principal of shared governance can be complicated by the fact that administrators and faculty may have differing views on issues.
“Depending on where you come from, you’re going to have a different perspective. Although [faculty and administration] might have the same goal, their methods and means might differ greatly and that can be a huge point of contention,” said Corbat.
Administration officials declined to comment on shared governance because of the ongoing contractual agreement process.