February 2009 Newsletter> President's Corner
Jennifer, Ballengee, English
Towson AAUP President
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
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
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?
Towson AAUP President