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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Faculty governance

It's coming on mid-September, and that means, among other things, that it is time to start going back to faculty meeetings.

Relatedly -- a subject that comes up often when academics huddle is “faculty governance.”  I tend to assume and say that I am “for” faculty governance, and “against” those structures and practices that undermine it.  I wonder, though -- what is “faculty governance,” really?  Do we – should we? – really want as much of it as we say?

So many of our top universities, to which so many of our good law schools are attached, are increasingly far removed from being self-governing communities of scholars and students.  Many now seem more like life-support systems for brand names, or grant-writing machines, employing more human-resources personnel, travel agents, and mission-statement consultants than scholars. 

Given these changes, what does, or can, “faculty governance” mean?  What should, say, a law-school dean who wanted to respect her faculty’s stated concern for “governance” do, or not do?  What should law professors, who -- for whatever reason -- want to be both institutionally invested and productive scholars, want her to do?

Posted by Rick Garnett on September 12, 2006 at 08:12 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I think that Mike cuts to the heart of the issue here. I see it as a "bang for the buck" issue - as in you dont get much. I've worked under a faculty governance model for some time now. I certainly do not get the impression that this yields any real faculty influence on important administrative decisions at any level. The idea behind faculty governance seems to be to kill two birds with one stone: 1) give the faculty the delusion of self governance; and 2) pawn off rather mundane administrative tasks on faculty to lighten the load of administrators who actually get paid to perform such tasks (i.e. they dont do much in the way of teaching or research).

Posted by: anon | Sep 12, 2006 2:14:22 PM

I, too, feel a pressure to be for faculty governance, in part because colleagues are in favor of it and it is rarely good to go against the opinions of those who make tenure decisions. I support faculty governance in the sense that I object to administrative countermanding of faculty decisions. Faculty votes on tenure, appointments, etc., should be folloewd absent important reasons to the contrary.
If the question, though, is whether to ask the faculty for input in the first place, then I am decidedly lukewarm about the concept. I will gladly trade whatever influence I carry in a faculty meeting (which is not much) for the freedom of not attending meetings.

Posted by: Mike Dimino | Sep 12, 2006 9:37:54 AM

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