Volume 2009 No. 1

Spring, 2009

 

 

February 2009 Newsletter> President's Corner

President's Corner

Jennifer, Ballengee, English
Towson AAUP President

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to the Spring 2009 Newsletter of the Towson AAUP.  Some of you reading this may be members, while others are not. Regardless of your membership status with the Towson AAUP, I want to share with you some of the issues that our chapter of the AAUP has been addressing this year.  If you’re not yet a member, I hope you’ll join after you read this (or even before you do!).  We meet once a semester, and the membership fee is limited to $15. The burden is not high, but the benefits can be great.  Each additional voice can make a difference—as much as anything can—in our faculty community and in the campus at-large.  Certainly a large number of voices grouped collectively behind an issue has more influence than can individual voices raised disparately.

What are these issues about which I would have us “make a difference”?  They may all be grouped under the aegis of “shared governance.” That is a term I’ve repeated often this year, but it’s an important term.  The university is comprised of three broad groups—administrators, faculty, and students—who all share the common goal of education. But education, and the best means to achieve it, has significantly different meanings for each of these groups.  There are, of course, exceptions to every norm.  But generally speaking, students mainly concern themselves with gathering the elements necessary for graduation and career, administrators aim to dispense that knowledge with “the most bang for the buck,” while faculty often have a broader and more expansive notion of what knowledge is valuable and why—a notion that doesn’t fit well with the economic terms of today’s university.  These economic terms, demanded by both students and administrators, overlap in many ways and they drive the increasingly ubiquitous business model of the university.  Whether or not such economic constraints are unfortunate is really beside the point; they exist, whether we like it or not.  As a result, the goals of these three bodies—students, faculty, and administrators—are sometimes in tension.  “Shared governance,” to me, is the potential of that tension to be productive for the university.  Shared governance represents a possibility for positive articulation of the various, and sometimes conflicting, demands, concerns, and values of the different bodies, and different values, that comprise the university. 

My opinion of what shared governance means is only one opinion.  The University System of Maryland, Towson University, and the national AAUP each have specific statements defining shared governance. Please look at the Statement on Shared Governance for that information.

Some on our campus feel that shared governance at Towson is in jeopardy.  Recent issues and policy decisions seem to reflect little or no faculty input, or, at the very least, no broad faculty input.  These range from the adoption of satellite campuses and the absorption of other bodies of higher learning into our campus to policies on class enrollment or class scheduling. Such decisions, which fall under the academic arm of the university and therefore ought to be within the purview of shared governance, have gone through that process.  One manner in which this sometimes happens is via the “pilot” program:  a policy may be adopted as a “pilot” and then, only once it is already underway, it is studied by a taskforce or announced to the University Senate.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to change a policy already in place—even if in a “pilot” capacity.  These examples represent failures in the concept of shared governance.  In as much as shared governance can be a positive, productive combination of ideas—allowing all of the various concerns of the university to reflect upon the issue—we are consistently seeing such unfortunate failures.  But the failure isn’t a simple product of arrogance or ignorance.  For the administration’s part, the administrators may find it difficult to get things done when working with faculty on issues; anyone who has served on the Senate, really anyone who knows a faculty member, knows that we can often speak far more than we need to about things, before coming to a decision (for heaven’s sakes, just look at this letter!).  On the other hand, faculty all too often grumble about the state of things, but then fail to serve or participate in the aspects of shared governance by which they might make a difference. 

The University Senate is Towson’s primary body of shared governance, including students, librarians, faculty, and administrators.  The Towson AAUP is also a body with a great deal of potential for shared governance, potential that remains relatively untapped.

But there are also a slew of university committees where faculty (you!) can make an active difference, and an important contribution to the university community.  Elections for these committees will be happening in about a month.  If you have complained about anything at Towson in the last year, I urge you to take part in making things better: nominate yourself for a position on a university committee!

At the very least, send in your $15 Towson AAUP membership fee and strengthen the voice of that body.  If you feel particularly concerned, please consider joining the national AAUP, too; the national AAUP lobbies, advocates, litigates, and conducts studies that protect, nation-wide, the professoriate and shared governance in higher education. Check out their website, www.aaup.org, to see what they do and to find out about how to join.

Finally, please take a look at the “Statement on Shared Governance” in this newsletter. It’s something I’d like the AAUP to vote to support, when we meet this Spring.  We have a new U.S. President in office who spoke at his Inauguration about taking responsibility.  Isn’t time that we all did that here at Towson, too?

Sincerely,

Jennifer Ballengee

Towson AAUP President

 


© 2009 Towson University