BY AFSHAN JAFAR, SIMON FELDMAN, AND JOAN C. CHRISLER
In the latest issue of Academe, we write about the importance of participating in academic governance, especially on small campuses. Our article, Hang Together or Hang Separately, lays out some of the obstacles to participation in governance and argues for the need to overcome them. Here, we distill our ideas into some handy slogans about governance. After all, who doesn’t want a bumper sticker with a catchy refrain about governance? Or perhaps an AAUP T-shirt?
1) It’s Not Personal; it’s Structural
Faculty participation in governance sometimes (or often) involves being at odds with administrators or taking them to task. These are not personal attacks. Our structural positions on faculty committees demand that we look out for faculty interests.
2) RESIST . . . the Demand to Do More With Less
Small colleges face growing pressure. This means faculty are being called upon to do more and more in terms of recruiting and retaining students, marketing the college—even helping students move into their dorms! At the same time, department budgets are being cut, salaries frozen, and benefits slashed. In this environment, it’s important to be ever more vigilant about which work is meaningful and necessary in improving faculty rights and working conditions and say no to extraneous administrative demands on our time.
3) REJECT the R1 Model
Faculty at many small colleges often find themselves facing unrealistic demands for scholarship, which is based on the dominance of the research university model that prioritizes scholarship. However, small colleges do not have the kinds of resources to offer to their faculty that R1s do, and they require more teaching and more intensive forms of student-teacher interactions. This can lead to faculty burnout and less available time to devote to governance. While working as hard as we do on our scholarly work and teaching, it is important to keep our institutions honest about the full range of the labor we perform and insist on the recognition of faculty labor related to governance.”
4) Don’t Do Everything . . . But Do What Is Yours to Do
Shared governance doesn’t mean that the faculty participates in everything or that every decision needs to be deliberated by everyone. The faculty has areas of primacy: “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life that relate to the educational process.” We should focus on those to strengthen governance and to make our contributions more meaningful. The Parking Ticket Appeals Committee will survive without faculty representation.
5) Friends Don’t Let Friends Say ‘No’ to Participation in Governance
Contrary to much of the advice we hear in graduate school, participation in governance and committee work is not something to be avoided. It’s something that should be actively encouraged and cultivated as it brings many rewards to the individual involved. On small campuses junior faculty who are involved in governance build networks beyond their department, feel connected to the institution, and feel supported by their colleagues. These networks and bonds allow them to draw on the collective wisdom and mentoring of a larger group of faculty.
6) Expand Your Expertise; Learn Robert’s Rules
Participation in governance teaches faculty a new (or relatively unexplored) set of skills – negotiation, agenda building, navigating parliamentary procedure, mentoring, community organizing, to name just a few. These are valuable skills to have and prove useful beyond the academic context as well.
7) Saving Academic Governance, One Faculty Member at a Time
Faculty governance can’t be the work of a few of the “usual suspects.” To sustain strong faculty governance, the investment in it needs to be inter-generational and widespread. Otherwise, governance structures are doomed to fail and faculty rights will surely erode.
8) It’s Not Just Service; it’s Power
It’s unfortunate that we use the word “service” to refer to the work of academic governance. The word does not accurately reflect what participation in governance actually does for faculty: it gives us control, authority, and power over our work lives. These are not acquired through serving, but through governing.
Afshan Jafar is associate professor of sociology at Connecticut College. She is vice president of the AAUP chapter and chair-elect of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee. Simon Feldman is associate professor of philosophy and chair of the philosophy department at Connecticut College. He is president of the AAUP chapter and a member of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee. Joan C. Chrisler is The Class of ’43 Professor of Psychology at Connecticut College. She is chair of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee, a member at large of the AAUP chapter, and a past president of the Connecticut state conference of the AAUP.