Shared governance violated
October 26, 2016
Filed under Letters to the Editor
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Regarding UA Ambassador Megan Hanft’s Oct. 24 guest viewpoint “Wilson, president at perfect time”: While all indications may be that the previously interim administrators (interim president and interim provost) are capable managers, making them permanent officers without formally discussing the move with faculty violates an almost sacred pact in higher education, that of shared governance. Shared governance necessarily means bringing such fundamentally important decisions into formal discussion with official governing bodies such as the Faculty Senate, the faculty and the staff labor unions, and student government, then weighing input while making an informed decision.
Without a complete rehash of the previous administration’s track record, the failure of the Board of Trustees to engage in shared governance is precisely what got the institution into the dire straits in which it currently finds itself. And now they are at it again – nothing has fundamentally changed with the Board.
Had the Board asked the opinion of either of the faculty governing bodies, they most likely would have heard two things: First, there would be the question “Why is there such a rush to appoint, when neither officer was asking for a change in their appointments.” Second, there would be the reminder that the Board owes the University community a chance to share in their decision and perform national searches so that the University community could vet the candidates, make their own recommendations, and feel a part of the process. Certainly both the interim officers could make their respective cases if they wished to do so.
The idea of such searches is to provide an opportunity through shared governance to select the very best officers the academic world has to offer. That door is now closed. More importantly by making unilateral decisions without even bothering to ask for other opinions, the Board is priming itself for continued failures while robbing the two appointed officers of the mandate a search would afford them.
That said, I do wish both President Wilson and Provost Ramsier good fortune going forward. I hope they will be reminded from time to time that they have partners in the success of the institution, whether or not the Board of Trustees wishes to acknowledge them.
Emeritus Professor and Senior Lecturer
Witt taught in UA’s former School of Family and Consumer Sciences from 1983 to 2014. He was co-founder of the Akron-AAUP (the faculty union) and served on the Faculty Senate.