For the first time in three decades, UMD is changing its governance structure by simply going back to the basics: sharing. “I’ve worked very hard to increase the involvement of faculty and staff and students in university issues, and (shared governance) is a way to make that happen,” Chancellor Lendley Black said.
In a nutshell, shared governance means all stakeholders at UMD have a stronger, more focused voice. Chancellor Black said he wanted a governance structure that reflected him and his cabinet, and he was pleased to have the new structure “approved by such a large margin.”
“All universities go through an evolution of governance processes,” said Black. “It certainly was time. It also was an opportunity for me to implement a system that is more in line with my own ways of doing things and preferences.”
Shared governance consists of an assembly and council for faculty, staff and students. The assembly is the collective group of all corresponding members. Within that, a handful of elected members make up the council for each of the three parties within shared governance. The council is responsible for reviewing and relaying information from the assembly to the University Coordinating Council (UCC).
The UCC oversees and ensures communication and collaboration from all parties, acting as the central body of shared governance. Aside from keeping tabs on the councils and assemblies, one of the responsibilities of UCC is to call a town hall meeting of the entire campus community on an as-needed basis.
Shared governance is still in the works as members of the campus assembly work on finalizing the bylaws in the UMD constitution. Chancellor Black said the campus is currently in the process of electing members to new assemblies and councils, but everything should be ready within the next few weeks.
Prior to shared governance, UMD had Campus Assembly. Black said the system did serve its purpose for many years, “but it really outlived its usefulness, and it really became very inefficient.”
“(Campus Assembly) revolved around these large campus assembly meetings, and all the major recommendations or decision making was done at those meetings … so it was difficult to have a focused discussion,” Black said.
Communication professor David Gore said that calling the new governance structure “shared” doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a collaborative process before, but because of the large-meeting format, “everybody’s voice was actually being diluted.”
“The old one was outdated and somewhat incoherent,” Gore said. “On the one hand, it was hard to tell which committees were supposed to do which tasks. There was also no mechanism formally for faculty to meet together with other faculty solely.”
A UMD faculty governance survey from last year found 94.3 percent of the 129 people who responded wanted to change/improve current governance structure. The survey created and distributed by professors David Gore, Scott Laderman, Michael Pfau and Jennifer Schultz also found that 60 percent of those surveyed thought the frequency and quality of information received from Campus Assembly was inadequate.
Shared governance allows for faculty to meet on their own terms — just as the staff or Student Association does — while still being able to come together with everyone as a whole.
“Another big flaw in the old model was that administrators could vote,” Gore said, adding that it didn’t make much sense to have administrators “voting on advice to themselves, essentially.” He said Campus Assembly was probably more effective back when it was first implemented at UMD when campus was much smaller.
Chancellor Black said he is excited to see the new governance structure up and running and said the town hall meeting on Oct. 8 is a good reflection of the changes to come.
BY KIM HYATT