New Paradigm of Faculty Senate


This is a guest post by Joslin Mar-Dai Pickens, coauthor along with Sonya D. Hester and Harolyn Wilson, of the article, “Organizing Real Faculty Governance in Northern Louisiana,” in the January–February issue of Academe (please note that an AAUP member login is required to read the full article). Pickens is a member of the faculty senate at the Southern University at Shreveport, where she is on the faculty in the Division of Humanities.

pickens-blogWith the corporatization of higher education on so many campuses, the faculty voice can seemingly be silenced in an effort to amplify the “bottom line” mentality. However without the strength of the academy, the quality of the university may become nullified. Building an informed and powerful faculty senate takes some work, but the results are rewarding.

Shared Governance in higher education has historically included groups like faculty senates, but at times there is little clarity to how much decision-making power and leadership they can carry. My university in northern Louisiana has a faculty senate model that has shifted the paradigm on our campus.

After collectively being on the campus for over three decades, some faculty members began to verbalize our displeasure with the faculty’s involvement in governance. From these various conversations, the idea to organize and create change was born. The office of faculty senate had been long run in silo by the president, but we felt that without the united voice of the faculty our needs were not being met. Without fully even understanding true shared governance, we took a chance and formed a slate of candidates to run as a ticket. This was the first time in the history of our university that there was a faculty senate campaign and team formed, along with a clear platform for the future of the office. For Election Day, we requested that there be a true voting experience fully equipped with voting machines and proctors. Prior to being elected, with the simple notion of these aforementioned actions, the paradigm had already begun to shift.

After all executive offices on the ticket were elected, this shift gained even more traction in the coming years. With notable accomplishments like creating a strategic plan, changing the promotion and tenure process, receiving faculty raises for the first time in almost a decade, and chartering a chapter of AAUP on our campus, the faculty voice was clear. Additionally, creating opportunities for community service, research, and bonding between faculty boosted the morale of faculty as it enhanced their vitas and produced a more familial environment.

Not only did we strengthen the voice of the faculty on our campus, but others throughout the state have begun to take note of our actions. This year we have entered a second term, after running on the same ticket for reelection, and have already begun our plans on accomplishing more for the faculty, because we recognize that much of what is successful in academe is done on the backs of the faculty.

Please check out our article, “Organizing Real Faculty Governance in Northern Louisiana,”  to read more about how we brought change to our university. (Please note that an AAUP member login is required to read the full article.)



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