Shared Governance Can Work

Subject: Shared Governance Can Work/FOOTNOTES

The new issue of AAUP's FOOTNOTES focuses on issues of shared governance
and includes the following article on UC Berkeley and why its system
actually works.

 Faculty Governance, The University of California, and the Future
of Academe

By David A. Hollinger

Governance works best when there is some actual governing going on. Banal
as this thought may be, its basic wisdom is often ignored in systems of
campus governance in American universities. "Shared governance" can be a
joke when administrators do the governing and chuckle privately at faculty
senate leaders who can be kept earnestly busy worrying about parking
policies. Many faculty governance organizations do very little governing,
except in a crisis.

But perhaps that is enough? Are we to take the word "governance" lightly,
and understand that what it mostly means for faculties is keeping
institutional structures and prerogatives intact so that senates can
exercise proper authority in a crisis? What counts, in this view, is being
ready when Senator McCarthys kind come around, when a rogue board of
trustees tries to abolish tenure, or when a national cataclysm like
Vietnam demands democratic forums for debating campus priorities and rules
for political conduct on campus.

Or should we take the ideal of shared governance more seriously, and
encourage campuses with relatively weak faculty governance to obtain some
of the power now exercised by deans, provosts, and presidents? Shouldnt
universities be more fully under the authority of faculty than they are,
and less under the control of career administrators?

The answers to these questions will differ from campus to campus. In this
article, I explore them in the context of my recent experience in faculty
governance at the University of California, Berkeley. I will also draw on
earlier experiences at the University of Michigan. Afterward, I will
comment on the stakes of university governance in our era, and suggest why
our time is one in which these issues really matter.

Two Models

These two large, public universities are similar institutions, yet the
Berkeley senate is one of the most powerful in American higher education,
while the Michigan senate, playing a more modest role in the governance of
its campus, is more representative of the national norm. The main lessons
I have drawn from my experience in these two systems are that (a) senates
with little power should not pretend to be more than holding operations,
(b) senates that aspire to more than that must be given substantial
authority over important decisions, and (c) the particular, historical
circumstances of any given campus will foster or frustrate efforts to
maintain or increase the facultys role in campus governance.

As soon as I moved from Michigan to Berkeley in 1992, I noticed a
difference in casual hallway conversations about senate committee service
among the most accomplished of my colleagues. At Michigan I had served on
the executive committee of the senate (Senate Advisory Committee on
University Affairs) and had suffered the good-natured (?) barbs of
colleagues: "Now, David, you are a good historian; why areyou spending
your time doing that stuff?" This crack was one of the more generous in
the genre.

At Berkeley I was struck by how little of this ritualistic aloofness was
on display. To be sure, at Berkeley, as everywhere, there are professors
who, when they look at a senate committee, can see only a potential for
sandbox politics. And the potential for such politics is more real when a
committee has no power to do anything important. Senate politics is then
all the more for "colleagues who have given up research," as it is
sometimes delicately expressed.

Yet my new Berkeley colleagues took the faculty as a corporate bodyone
that transcends particular schools and collegesmuch more seriously than
did most of my Michigan colleagues. I soon found that some of the most
accomplished scientists and scholars at Berkeley took their turns with
senate leadership responsibilities and expressed annoyance at colleagues
who were "not good citizens." These "I pull my oar" folks at Berkeley were
often the same kinds of people who, at Michigan, were more inclined to
say, "Administrators are paid to do this, so let them do it."

And my Michigan colleagues had good reasons to feel that way. Faculty
involved in governance at Michigan do not find themselves with much to do.
The leaders of its senate often have to scramble to find agendas for the
monthly meetings of the senate assembly. "Lets be proactive, not
reactive," one well-meaning candidate for senate leadership after another
will intone, but to little effect in a system designed to be reactive.

What faculty power there is at Michigan resides largely within specific
schools and colleges, such as the executive committee of the College of
Letters, Science, and the Arts. This committee, elected by the colleges
faculty, works closely with the colleges dean to decide appointments and
promotions. But a persistent problem with the campuswide faculty
governance system at Michigan, as I experienced it, was the reluctance of
the people in it to admit that it was indeed at its best when it was
reactive. Michigan has a strong-dean system, and it works reasonably well.
Until and unless that changes, the faculty senate should be content to be
reactive, and to be ready for the next crisis.

Berkeley has a weak-dean system, and it, too, works reasonably well,
despite the frustrations that many deans experience with it. The core of
the Berkeley system is the power of the faculty as a corporate, campuswide
body to influence decisions about faculty salaries, as well as
appointments and promotions at all ranks in all schools and colleges. This
power is exercised through the Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental
Relations (generally known as the Budget Committee), an institution in
operation since 1919.

Tradition of Power Sharing

The Budget Committee, on which I served from 1996 to 1999, including a
year as chair, is appointed by the executive body of the senate
(Divisional Council of the Berkeley Division of the University of
California Academic Senate) upon nomination of its Committee on
Committees. The Budget Committee is misleadingly named. It does not review
budgets; it is an academic personnel committee. Yet the Berkeley Budget
Committee retains an authority over dollar-amount salaries that none of
the comparable committees on other UC campuses enjoy (or endure, as those
who find the responsibility burdensome might put it). For this reason, the
Berkeley campus has retained the name Budget Committee, instead of calling
itself the Committee on Academic Personnel, in keeping with the practice
of other UC campuses. The word "budget" serves to remind everyone that
decisions about money are being made.

Several specific features of the Berkeley Budget Committee invite
clarification. What I describe as "authority" over salaries is technically
the power to recommend specific salary figures in each personnel case,
whether at the time of appointment, promotion, retention, or routine merit
review. The Budget Committee formulates its recommendations in response to
proposals from chairs and deans, presented in writing with extensive
documentation. But by carefully reinforced tradition, the final
recommendations of the Budget Committee are almost always followed by the
chancellor and his or her deputies. Hence the power to "recommend" is much
more substantial than this constitutionally vague word might imply. I
refer to the "final" recommendation of the Budget Committee, because vice
chancellors and provosts sometimes question the Budget Committees initial
recommendation in a given case and ask for reconsideration in the light of
specific arguments they present to the Budget Committee in writing. The
Budget Committee sometimes changes its mind based on the points made in
these second-round exchanges.

What if the Budget Committee does not change its mind? The first
recommendation then stands as final. In the event that the chancellor or
his or her deputies remain at odds with the Budget Committee in a given
case, they do not act until they have a face-to-face meeting with the
Budget Committee. At this meeting, the administrators are obliged to
explain their decision, and to offer one last chance for the two
partiesthe Budget Committee and the administratorsto persuade one another,
and thus to achieve consensus.

In some years, this process results in the administrations acting against
the final recommendations of the Budget Committee in as many as four or
five cases (out of more than one thousand personnel cases processed by the
committee annually). But in other years, the total is only one or two, and
in some years, it is zero. The process, therefore, is one of candid,
direct, collegial discussion, in which the achievement of consensus is the
norm rather than the exception. The Budget Committee never interacts
directly with deans, and it limits its contact with administrators to the
chancellor and his or her senior deputies.

As the foregoing implies, the relationship between the Budget Committee
and the chancellor and his or her representatives is usually cooperative
and cordial. But tensions do develop, and disagreements can be vigorously
engaged. Yet most people who have served on the Budget Committee or who
have served in high administrative positions testify to the mutual respect
that generally defines interactions between the Budget Committee and
administrators. Although some administrators complain that the Budget
Committee has too much power and the deans not enough, many administrators
defend the role of the Budget Committee in campus governance. At the
present time, the chancellors two chief deputies for personnel matters
were themselves members of the Budget Committee prior to taking
administrative posts.

Colleagues at other universities often express skepticism that a system
like Berkeleys can work. "How," they ask, "do you get good people to
devote their time to it?" Course relief and a summer stipend help, but a
major consideration is a campus tradition of long standing into which new
generations of professors are routinely acculturated. The main thing,
however, is that this committee actually does something important. It
helps govern the campus. If you give faculty something important to do,
they can often do it, contrary to the slander of some career
administrators that rank-and-file faculty cannot be trusted with power. I
have been active in faculty governance for thirty years, and the Budget
Committee at Berkeley is by far the most important and rewarding committee
service I have ever performed.

And the Budget Committee has a striking spin-off effect on faculty
governance generally. The senate supports and sustains the committee and
draws strength from its power. Moreover, as faculty rotate on and off the
committee, the campus is provided with a steady supply of professors who
have had direct experience in governing the campus. They can be called
upon to serve on other committees, and they bring to those committees a
measure of sophistication about administrative issues that would otherwise
be in shorter supply. Administrators pay more attention to faculty
committees when its members know what they are talking about.

Obstacles to Solidarity

Could this system work on other campuses? Perhaps. I believe Berkeley is
fortunate to have the tradition that it has, but I suppose that some
faculties elsewhere could put a system of this kind into effect if they
wanted to. Yet a great deal depends on the circumstances. A strong
corporate sense across campus is required, and not all faculties will find
this easy to create if it is not already in place at this stage in the
history of American higher education. Indeed, a number of forces seem now
to be militating against the maintaining of such a corporate sense even at
places like Berkeley. And where such a sense is not already entrenched,
these forces are formidable obstacles to creating one. What forces do I
have in mind?

Universities have become more and more central to the social, cultural,
and economic life of the United States, which has led to increased
pressures to reduce them to inventories of instruments for this or that
interest. Faculties, in the meantime, have become less able to agree on
what ethos identifies the university, which has led to a diminished
capacity to justify to the public the rights and privileges of faculties.
Each of these two circumstancesan institution expected to do more and more
for society and a faculty less and less confident about any common
purposehas its own sources.

But the two are caught up with each other dialectically. The more tasks
that society persuades or forces universities to accept, the more of a
challenge it is for faculties to constitute themselves as a distinctive

The less able professors are to act together, the more they tend to
identify themselves with the constituencies beyond campusprofessional,
ethnoracial, economic, and politicaleager to exploit the university as a
tool. This dialectic facilitates the parceling out of the university into
a series of relationships between specific segments of the university, on
the one hand, and congruent, specific segments of society, on the other.

This dialectic is not new. But it is now intensifying. And it may be
unstoppable. It is not clear how many people care about stopping it. There
are careers to be advanced and profits to be made through the
disaggregation of the old institution. Universities as we have known them
may be replaced in our new century by a series of new institutions
carrying out this or that function currently assigned to universities.
Among the most discussed harbingers of this future are the transfer of
more and more undergraduate instruction into the hands of temporary and
part-time faculty, the rise of "virtual universities," the increasing
quality and quantity of research carried out in industrial laboratories,
the legal and technical capacity of private corporations to create
knowledge that belongs only to them, the willingness of some university
leaders to undercut the peer-review process by lobbying directly to
Congress for research grants, and the pressures for profiteering placed on
campus administrators by the terms of the Bayh-Dole Act.

A striking indicator of the breakdown of any notion that faculty are "in
it together" in their capacity as professors on a campus, rather than
nodes in a network defined by the commercial market, is the willingness of
universities to tolerate greater and greater salary differentials by field
for faculty of equal merit as judged by national and international peer
review. Skills marketable outside the university yield higher and higher
salaries within universities. Universities are generally willing to pay
the most money to faculty whose careers are the least fully defined by the
traditional research and teaching missions of universities, and to pay the
least money to those faculty whose careers are the most fully defined by
those missions.

I have addressed this syndrome in "Money and Academic Freedom a
Half-Century after McCarthyism: Universities Amid the Force Fields of
Capital," an essay in Unfettered Expression: Freedom in American
Intellectual Life, edited by P. G. Hollingsworth and published by the
University of Michigan Press last year. The syndrome presents an acute
challenge to Berkeleys Budget Committee, which has traditionally sought to
defend salary equity across fields, disciplines, and schools. Those
Berkeley professors who are the least loyal to the Budget Committee and
the least concerned about faculty governance are, in my experience, the
most likely to prefer to cut special deals with deans. "The trouble with
you guys," a skeptical colleague said to me during my term as chair of the
Budget Committee, "is that you care too much about equity and not enough
about the market."

Markets have always been with American universities and always will be.
But on what terms? Universities with the structure and functions we take
for granted are the products of a particular historical moment long since
gone. They came into being during the forty years after the Civil War and
were adapted gradually over the course of the century just ended. Being
aware of the historical contingencies in which our institutions are caught
can be a reason to be cautious about the prospects for governance reform.
This cognizance can also be a cause to think carefully about just how
faculties can join with presidents, provosts, and deans in charting a wise
course for American universities. If we are all "in it together,"
faculties need to develop and maintain the political solidarity of the

The best devices for solidarity may differ from campus to campus. The
Budget Committee is one such device that helps maintain faculty solidarity
on one major American campus. Other campuses may find this example useful,
or not, depending on their circumstances. But without solidarity, the
professoriate will continue to fragment on terms created by the
surrounding society. The problem of faculty solidarity is now located,
more than ever, in the force fields of capital, where profit functions
like gravity, where knowledge takes the form of property, where human
energy is converted into money, and where values dance to the tune of
markets. It is in that dynamic and multilayered space that faculties will
seize or surrender what solidarity is within their reach.