The subcommittee used a number of methods to gather
and evaluate information pertinent to its recommendations. These methods
included meetings with academic departments, review of documents of national
associations, attendance at workshops on faculty governance, meetings with
administrative and academic support faculty, and collection of faculty
handbook materials from other colleges.
Certain issues emerged as common themes in those discussions. Overall, there was a perception that communication patterns at the college could be improved. Many faculty claimed to have little knowledge of issues being considered by various committees or task forces. Likewise, it was felt that some institutional policies are fundamentally administrative commitments which move forward without broad faculty input or discussion. The monthly faculty meetings, which might become centers of such discussion, have not functioned well in this regard. Furthermore, there has been little formal communication between the Board of Trustees and faculty; and the advisory role of faculty (as regards the college president) has not been used in a regular or consistent way. The departments also questioned the status of some faculty committees as advisory rather than decision-making bodies in their areas of special expertise. Although the college administrative structure has become less bureaucratized in recent years, there was still a perception that college planning resembles a complicated pyramid of recommendations moving to a point of centralized decision-making. In summary, many discussants felt that authority and responsibility levels have not always matched well in the current system and that the subcommittee should study the prospects of moving decision-making downward, or clarifying the roles of committees.
Other concerns related
to the functioning of specific committees. These will be addressed as part
of the recommendations that follow.
Review of Documents.
As part of its procedures, the subcommittee reviewed a number of documents, both individually and collectively. While the Elon College Faculty Handbook was the principal document, special attention was given to "Assessing the Faculty's Role in Shared Governance: Implications of AAUP Standards" (AAUP, 1998) and to "AGB Statement on Institutional Governance" (Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, 1998). While differing predictably, all documents emphasized the central importance of the governance issue and the critical role of faculty in a period of activist trustees, technological change, competition for students, and educational accountability measures.
in External Workshops.
In April 1999, subcommittee members Henricks and Johnson attended the workshop, "Reclaiming the Faculty Role in Governance," sponsored by the AAC&U in Chapel Hill. In July 1999, Henricks and Francis attended the "Collaborative Leadership Symposium," sponsored by the AAC&U in Washington, DC. Both workshops emphasized the importance of good communication among institutional stakeholders for developing and executing sound policy. It is appropriate that these various stakeholders (i.e., faculty, administrators, staff, trustees, students, etc.) hold different viewpoints and priorities. Effective governance recognizes these differences and integrates them within the context of the institutional mission statement. However, there is no one formula for effective governance. Each college must find a pattern that respects its historic identity and responds to its distinctive clientele.
with Administrative and Academic Support Faculty.
One of the more important issues faced by the subcommittee was defining the term "faculty" itself. A review of the current college catalog revealed that approximately 192 faculty members at Elon hold positions that focus primarily on teaching, while another 50 persons with faculty rank have primarily administrative or academic support roles. In this light, the subcommittee sponsored meetings during April 1999 with these latter categories of faculty. In addition to discussing the elements of the subcommittee's charge, academic support and administrative faculty were asked to reflect on the meaning of their own faculty status.
In general, this group recognized that there are important differences between their primary roles at the college and those of teaching faculty. However, they also emphasized that they shared many of the commitments of teaching faculty and in fact functioned as faculty in the broader sense of that term. Discussants emphasized their roles in developing, executing, and providing resources for academic policy; their teaching in both credit-bearing courses and less formal settings, their contributions to the development of students, the previous roles many had held as teaching faculty; and their deep commitment to the educational mission of the college.
As a result of those discussions, in May 1999,
the Academic Council decided to add two members from the academic support
area to the subcommittee. Those members, Jim Donathan and Connie Keller,
helped articulate the status and responsibilities of this group in the
shared governance process.
Handbook Materials from Other Colleges.
During the summer 1999, the subcommittee chair and administrative liaison sent a letter requesting information from 35 colleges and universities on matters related to the subcommittee's charge. Fifteen of these institutions sent policy statements, faculty handbook materials, or webpage addresses. Such materials were consulted as alternative approaches to these issues.