[The following essay was published in the UTK Faculty Senate Newsletter in November, 1999. It was a contribution to a symposium on University governance. See also the symposium essays by Roger W. Dickson and M. Mark Miller.]

An Administration View
by Robert A. Levy
Associate Senior Vice President,
University of Tennessee

Sometime in the early Sixties, when I was an undergraduate zealously trying to think of new ways to shake my college's tree by publishing student evaluations of faculty, a kindly professor took me aside and told me about the school's governance. It was, he said, shared by the faculty and the administration (and it was far too serious a responsibility to share with students, who shouldn't waste their time evaluating their instructors). I didn't know what the "administration" was, what "governance" was, or what he meant by its being "shared." I'm still not sure about the precise shape of some of these things, but the intervening thirty-five years have given me a dictionary, some experience, and--maybe--some insight.

Let's start with what my dictionary says about "govern." The word "govern" goes back to Latin, and comes to us through Old French and Middle English. It and its several variants (like "governance") are words that have stayed useful over hundreds of years, and they have spun-off a fair number of senses of their meanings. For me, virtually all of these senses fall into one of two categories:
1. to manage, regulate, or rule;

2. to guide, influence, or sway.
Obviously, the first set of meanings has a more authoritarian ring to it, and a focus on maintaining the status quo; the second set seems more to do with consensus-building in order to reach an intended objective. In Academe, maybe we should remember that there are these two types of governance.

The need for some form of governance (whatever meaning one wishes to give it) must surely be thoroughly embedded in our species. Certainly as far back as Paleolithic times, human beings banded together and acted in a concerted way to hunt and to protect themselves from predators (of their own species or other). No group of hominids could long survive without ways to govern group behaviors.

There are about 3,500 colleges and universities in the US, and each has found ways to operate in the present and to build toward the future. Their individual pasts, sizes, affiliations (public? private? tightly denominational?), budgets, curricular complexities have almost everything to do with their governance structures. So, what's meant by "governance" at a large, mature, complex, public, Land-Grant, Southern, Research I university in East Tennessee?

One answer is a legalistic one. The Bylaws of The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees try to be quite clear at their very beginning (Article I, Section 1):
The Board of Trustees, which is the governing body of The University of Tennessee, shall have full and complete control over its organization and administration.
Both constraint and clarity are almost immediately added in Section 2, which says that the Board shall "Establish policies concerning the scope of the educational opportunities to be offered [and] prescribe admission, progression, and retention requirements for the University and particular programs of instruction; however, the planning and development of curricula shall be the function of the faculties."

The Bylaws go on to explain that the vehicle for effecting this governance is the Academic Committee of the Board of Trustees (Article III, Section 5):
The Academic Committee shall approve and recommend to the Board, or to the Executive Committee, proposals concerning the development of new academic programs and the revision of existing programs relating to instruction, research, and service; the establishment of new academic organizations, such as major campuses, colleges, and institutes; the adoption of admission, progression, and retention standards; and the adoption and revision of faculty personnel policies.
But, Charter and Bylaws aside, what else can be said about governance at UTK? Well, we all believe that it is "shared." My experience at UT suggests that there are governance players well beyond the "faculty" and "administration" groups that my old prof revealed to me in 1963. Today, I believe, the people who add value to an institution have both a right and an obligation to help chart its course. A public university has many such people: faculty members, administrators, and other employees; students and alumni; The People (i.e., their elected representatives, the bureaucracies that support those office-holders, and the trustees and commissioners named by them); philanthropists and others who help to keep the lights on. There may be more, but my point is that many, many constituencies logically should have some degree of something to say about how some part or parts of a public university should be governed.

I know that it wasn't always this way, and that David Vold (past President of the Alabama Conference of the AAUP) may be right in his essay, "The Soul of a University":
"Time had been when professors had enjoyed the status of a guild of scholars. It was painful to them to be reminded that as guild control had given way to control by a lay governing board, professors had settled into this subordinate position." (Quote from John Brubacher and Willis Rudy, Higher Education in Transition, A History of American colleges and Universities, 1636-1976 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976). What's more, the ideal of a professorial guild seems, if anything, more threatened than ever by bureaucratic regulations, legal restrictions, and a professorate that identifies more with its subject-matter distinctions than with the academy as a whole.
The AAUP, which speaks what many faculty members feel, bills its 1966 Statement as "a call to mutual understanding regarding the government of colleges and universities. Understanding, based on community of interest, and producing joint effort, is essential." The Statement goes on to say that universities like ours are made of highly interdependent parts and stakeholders who need to communicate well and work together, even though "differences in the weight of each voice, from one point to the next, should be determined by reference to the responsibility of each component for the particular matter at hand." But as the Statement progresses, it becomes clear that AAUP's vision of mutuality is very different from the Trustees' notion of the "function" of the faculty. AAUP says,
The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances.... The faculty sets the requirements for the degrees offered in course, determines when the requirements have been met, and authorizes the president and board to grant the degrees thus achieved.... Faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility; this area includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal.... The faculty should actively participate in the determination of policies and procedures governing salary increases.... The chair of head of a department serves as the chief representative of the department.
AAUP President James T. Richardson, in the "Opinion & Arts" section of the 12 February 1999 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, says that
The A.A.U.P.'s statement was never a vehicle to give college and university faculties dominant power, but was meant to establish a balance of powers. It was an acknowledgment that governing boards' hardheaded business skills, coupled with faculties' insistence on scholarly excellence, breed a constructive, if not always easy, tension. For some three decades, faculty members have accepted the fact that boards of regents or trustees have final, fiduciary responsibility for their institutions and a role in arbitrating controversial disputes. But faculty members also have asserted that boards must delegate substantial authority to the professorate in educational issues--curriculum, student grading, admissions, and professional standards. Faculty members have under stood that administrative decisions affecting them will not always be to their liking, but will at least be informed by faculty advice--through peer review, faculty councils, and the like.
If, in halcyon days of yore, two parties (faculty and administration) were able to share governance, those days are gone. Now there are too many parties. Now the university itself is too multifaceted. Now the university's environment is to complex and fragmented. Maybe a new model is needed.

Maybe we should borrow from the dictionaries' several senses of "govern," and try to identify which activities are present-centered and which require only a single stakeholder (or nearly so). Not everything we do is shared, nor should it be.

Maybe we should teach ourselves to think of "sequential" governance, where two or more stakeholders may have governance responsibilities at different times in a process. For example, think about UT's conception of the academic department head. Here, as at institutions where a faculty elects its chairperson, heads are faculty members. But here heads are appointed by their dean and serve at her/his pleasure. Normally, the departmental faculty is intimately involved in selecting its head; rarely is a head appointed or removed without at least nominal consultation with the departmental faculty. Legally, the dean must make a choice; ethically and practically, she/he is well-advised to consult with the faculty. Later, should it not like the process or the dean's choice of head, the faculty is both ethically and legally entitled to disagree.

Or maybe UT's tenure policy is a fuller example, and one in which the faculty voice is heard first. Faculty expertise forms the basis of tenure recommendations; administrators at different levels consider different ramifications of the faculty votes; legally, the Board of Trustees must review and decide. At some of these steps the weights of responsibilities differ; at others they nearly vanish. Each succeeding step must rely on the one(s) before it; however, the wisdom of the departmental faculty underlies everything, yet only the Board of Trustees has the raw power to actually approve tenure. There's a kind of odd symmetry to this. The Board's policy requires that each academic unit enact bylaws that protect the faculty voice in tenure procedures (and, presumably, in other processes). By so doing, the Board exercises its governance responsibilities by guaranteeing the faculty's governance responsibilities.

Maybe, as UT creeps toward the millennium (this year or next), we need to find places where each of our appropriate voices can be heard at the appropriate stages in a discussion. Maybe we should think about sequential governance.

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