Panelists share views on shared governance during open forum
A six-person panel shared insights and reflections on the Shared Governance and Communications Committee’s “moving forward together” concept during an open forum Friday in the Bovee University Center.
University President George Ross was one of 33 people who gathered to hear the panel and ask further questions in regard to moving forward with shared governance.
Shared values, mutual trust and mutual respect were the three areas panel member and assistant professor of English Catherine Hicks-Kennard said were important for a functioning university.
Hicks-Kennard, who was the Faculty Research and Creative Endeavors Chair during the 2011-12 academic year, said the FRCE, a funding committee composed of various faculty and administrators that reviews proposals for research and approve funding rewards to support those endeavors, remained positive even at the worst times at Central Michigan University with these values, proving it can be done.
“That was a stressful time to begin with, and to have all the antagonism and negative stuff going on, it was a place where we were doing business as usual – the calm in the storm,” she said. “I think we were in a position where the academic values and utility culture, instead of being divided, were converging.”
Despite being on a smaller scale than the university, Hicks-Kennard said it’s important to find where the communication breakdown is happening on a larger scale.
Various audience members were interested in how the SGCC will be able to bridge the gap between faculty and administration when communication is as indirect as it is.
Dean of the College of Science and Technology Ian Davison suggested the use of telephone rather than email to avoid confusion and build relationships.
“The more people get to know each other, the more they trust each other and the more likely they give the benefit of the doubt that the decision they heard about was not motivated by malice, but based on that individual’s best judgment,” Davison said.
Other board members suggested ways in which faculty and administration can meet to talk or provide opportunities to shadow one others to relieve tension and allow insight on what the other side is dealing with.
Davison also suggested the Academic Senate should be expanded to increase representation, which Ross agreed is important.
“There are many staff, faculty members and students … who care about the institution, and we need to think about bringing those people more into this process,” Davison said. “What are we frightened of in having more people on the Senate?”
Karen Bellingar, panel member and executive secretary of the School of Engineering & Technology, said CMU has lost its community.
“I think it used to be people gathered, and you had a very good feeling with people you knew on campus,” Bellingar said. “Maybe it’s part of getting larger, but I do think we have to think about that and come back together to get that trust and vision back.”
The SGCC is recommending a standing committee to remain proactive rather than reactive every so many years when issues arise.
The SGCC defines shared governance at CMU as “a dynamic collection of best practices for engaging, voicing, listening and discussing the interests of all groups, admin, faculty, staff, students and trustees when planning and making and implementing decisions for the university.”
Friday’s other panelists included Jeff Hoyle, market & hospitality services administrator, Michelle Campbell, president of the Graduate Student Union, and Christi Brookes, chair of foreign languages, literatures and cultures.
The forum came after shared governance experts Adrianna Kezar and Terrence MacTaggart came to CMU in February to review and give feedback on university history and the SGCC.
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