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Shared Governance Under Stress: Reflections of the Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate
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Shared Governance Under Stress: Reflections of the Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate

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Presentation provided a review of the governance crisis at Penn State precipitated by the arrest of Mr. Sandusky and the termination of its President and Head Football Coach followed by unprecedented …

Presentation provided a review of the governance crisis at Penn State precipitated by the arrest of Mr. Sandusky and the termination of its President and Head Football Coach followed by unprecedented investigations and NCAA sanctions. The focus will be on the absence of faculty from any meaningful engagement in any of these events.

Published in: Education

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  • 1. Shared Governance Under Stress: Reflections of the Chairof the Penn State University Faculty SenateLarry Catá BackerW. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar & Professorof Law, Professor of International Affairs 2012-13 ChairUniversity Faculty Senate, Pennsylvania State UniversityAAUP ConferenceOn the State of Higher EducationSession 4C June 13, 2013Washington, D.C.
  • 2. Introduction and Context
  • 3. The Actors and Chain of Events• Jerry Sandusky• Curley and Schultz• Spanier and Paterno• Board of Trustees• Freeh Group Report• NAACP report and Sanctions• Incorporating the Freeh GroupRecommendatons
  • 4. Roadmap• Nature of institutional errors– Board of Trustees– Administration– Faculty• Stress on Shared Governance– Institutional impediments to faculty participation in effectiveshared governance• What the Future Brings– Complicity with cronyism
  • 5. Nature of Institutional Errors• The Board of Trustees was not prepared– Virtual ceding of any oversight authority– Passive engagement; cronyism• The administrative apparatus of a large university is not alwaysprepared for crisis, and tends to handle crisis badly.– No planning; administrative isolation, developing a “yes person” top downculture of control• University governance structures that are based on a strongPresident model are especially susceptible to mismanagingcrisis, especially where the crisis itself focuses on the office of thePresident.– Cult of personality issues– Cronyism
  • 6. Nature of Institutional Errors (2)• Large bureaucracies resist nimbleness—they prefer gesture tosubstantive changes if only because they are less drastic andbecause they hold the promise of substituting formal forfunctional changes.– The appearance of action as a substitute for response—hamsters on a wheel– Fosters lack of transparency and encourages stakeholders to check out ofgovernance participation• Faculties, and faculty organizations, did not well serve theinterests of the university in this crisis when they assume thatservility is the highest form of service.– Cultivation of cultures of servility– Faculty conspicuously absent at key moments– Back door whisper campaigns to discredit faculty or bully them into silence
  • 7. Stress Points on SharedGovernance• Transparency– Informational– engagement• Senate Structure that enhancesAdministrative Control– Executive director reporting to theProvost– No participation in budget• No protection againstretaliation or pressure– Especially potent against contractfaculty on the Senate• Process complexity• Cronyism– Insider senate leaders– Rewards for behaving– Marginalization of “rebels”– Repeat players on all committees• Solidarity Issues– Faculty easy to divide– Fear mongering by administrators• Boards tend to see faculty asemployees• Focus on low leveladministrative tasksoverwhelm resources
  • 8. What the Future Brings• Need to move from focus on administrationrelated tasks to monitoring, assessment andaccountability– Board performance• Should report directly to board– Administration performance• 360 review of personnel• Program review
  • 9. What the Future Brings (2)• Abandon focus on petty functionary governance– Obsession with small issues;• pay attention to administrative bloat• Develop the forensic function– Only real venue for discussing important issues of governance• Protect faculty against retaliation and bullying– Abandon reliance on judicial and constitutional law protection– Require contractual or policy protection against retaliation• Enhance transparency– Informational transparency– Engagement transparency
  • 10. Questions?
  • 11. Further Reading• Backer, Larry Catá, Between Faculty, Administration, Board, State, andStudents: On the Relevance of a Faculty Senate in the Modern U.S.University (February 10, 2013). Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2032779 orhttp://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2032779• Remarks on Assuming Duties as Chair of the PSU University FacultySenate, April 24, 2012. Availablehttp://www.backerinlaw.com/Site/podcasts/speeches-and-remarks/remarks-on-assuming-duties-as-chair-of-the-psu-university-faculty-senate-april-24-2012/.