AND THE ART OF SHARED GOVERNANCE
by Nancy B. Rapoport
One of the most complicated issues in higher education administration is
the issue of shared governance. Fundamentally,
the university is the faculty,
in the sense that the “business” of the university—educating students,
engaging in unique research and creative activity—only happens with an engaged
faculty. Based on the faculty’s
expertise in teaching and research/creative activity, therefore, there are
certain issues that are within the faculty’s authority to decide 
But the faculty, generally speaking, does not want to spend the bulk of
its time dealing with the behind-the-scenes details of running a university:
making sure that bills get paid, budgets get managed, facilities get
maintained, reports get filled out, and supporters of the university get
Faculty members are willing, however, to spend significant portions of
their time on committees related to issues of central concern to the faculty as
a whole, such as faculty appointments, curriculum issues, and admissions policy.
I’ve found that shared governance is hard to explain to non-academics.
Managers in the “real world” tend to envision a reporting structure
that looks like this:
They don’t expect something that looks like this:
The dotted lines are confusing, to say the least.
What authority do deans (or—for those units that are organized by
departments—department chairs) have over faculty members?
We’ll leave two issues for another time:
(1) student governance issues and (2) shared governance as it relates to
units that have departments. (On the
latter point, suffice it to say that—when there are multiple departments in a
unit—the primary shared governance interaction is between the faculty members
of the department and the department chair.
When there are departments, the dean interacts more often with the
department chairs than with the entire faculty.)
The issue of where the faculty fits into a shared governance model is
complicated enough, and I haven’t even begun to figure out where I’d place
some of the other important governing bodies—such as university senates—in
I spend a fair amount of time
explaining that deans almost invariably have the authority to manage staff,
and fund-raising, but that decanal power with respect to everything else—from
vision-setting to facilities allocation—can run the gamut (from strongly
dean-governed units to strongly faculty governed units), depending on the
Every school has a different tradition as to which parts of “shared”
governance really are shared, and which parts are within either the faculty’s
jurisdiction or the administration’s jurisdiction.
What doesn’t vary is the
reaction of non-academics to the concept of shared governance.
For people used to top-down command of employees by employers, the idea
that the faculty shares power with the administration is a novel concept.
Most of the time, the two facts that give them the most pause are that
(1) deans can’t hire new faculty members without express faculty consent;
and (2) deans can’t push through curricular changes without express faculty
After all, we seem to be the CEOs of our academic units, so why don’t
we have the authority to act like “normal” CEOs?
It’s a Question of
Because I’m law-trained, I tend to think of shared governance in terms
The faculty best understands the core missions of teaching and research/creative
shared governance traditionally gives the faculty the authority to control
issues of admissions, faculty hiring, curricular change, subject to the
administration’s veto power relating to issues of process and budget.
Those issues that relate to keeping the place running (budget,
facilities), thriving (fund-raising, keeping various internal and external
relatively happy), and on the good side of the law are within the jurisdiction
of the administration.
Of course, there’s concurrent
jurisdiction on many issues,
which means that there are
serious difficulties at the margins, in terms of classifying which group has
jurisdiction over which precise issues. Moreover,
using “faculty” and “administration”
as distinct groups tends to set up a “we-they” distinction that can lead to
serious misunderstandings and lack of respect on both sides.
And yet the discussion has to start somewhere, so why not with
One way to describe the intersection of faculty-administrative
jurisdiction is visually, with the use of a Venn diagram.
The idea of using a Venn diagram to describe the intersection of two
related fields isn’t new; even the use of a Venn diagram to describe the
intersection of ethics and morality isn’t new.
If we try it with law school governance (often called “faculty
governance” or “shared governance”), here’s one of the possibilities:
What I like most about this Venn diagram is that it’s less structured
than the “typical university governance flowchart” that I’ve drawn.
The Venn diagram is more fluid than a traditional organizational chart,
and it highlights that actual jurisdiction is often tempered by informal
persuasion of, and collaboration with, one part of governance (say, the dean)
with the other (say, the faculty).
The hard part isn’t making the drawing.
The hard part is figuring out which things go in which circles in the
Let’s use a single academic unit—a law school—for this discussion.
From my perspective, deans can
propose curricular changes to the faculty, but the faculty is wholly within its
rights to reject those changes. Deans
may still teach—after all, most deans are also members of the faculty—but
deans don’t have the same day-to-day familiarity with the curriculum as do
those faculty members teaching full course loads.
The dean may try to persuade the faculty regarding curricular issues;
such persuasion behind the scenes is fine, as long as the dean accepts the
faculty’s determination on curricular issues.
Other issues wholly in the
“faculty jurisdiction” Venn circle would include an individual faculty
member’s decision on course content
and teaching methods,
subject only to legal and policy constraints.
The individual faculty member also has jurisdiction over her own research
agenda. Deans can facilitate
teaching and research, but teaching and research relate to core university
functions; therefore, faculty members need to have the first say on these
Similarly, we can put certain issues clearly within the administrative
Deans can—and should—get advice from faculty, staff, and students on
budget issues, but it’s the dean’s neck on the line if the school doesn’t
make its budget. The budget function
is the most typical CEO function in the dean’s job description.
It’s also the dean’s neck on the line if the admissions policy
violates state or federal law, if privacy regulations are breached, or if
harassment is tolerated. As I
occasionally remind people, because I get to be the first named defendant on
lawsuits, I like to increase our odds on winning those lawsuits by making sure
that we keep our noses clean.
The allocation and use of
facilities is also administrative in nature,
as are issues of how information technology is to be used and how the library is
to be run. Just as the faculty is
likely to care a great deal what the dean thinks about issues squarely within
the faculty’s jurisdiction,
the dean is also likely to care greatly what the faculty (and staff, students,
alumni, etc.) will think about issues within the jurisdiction of the
What of those issues in which the
administration has veto power but no affirmative power to propose?
I’m thinking specifically of faculty hiring, where the faculty must
vote a candidate an offer before the dean has authority to make the offer.
The dean can choose not to make the offer notwithstanding the faculty’s
support of the candidate (although the dean probably should discuss with the
faculty her reasons before the faculty votes on the candidate).
Veto-power issues belong in the intersection of “faculty
jurisdiction” and “administrative jurisdiction.”
Another issue that belongs in that
intersection is the overall direction that the law school will take (commonly
known as “vision”). No vision
propounded by the dean and unsupported by the faculty will work.41]
The faculty knows that deans come and go.
Often, though, deans are good at weighing all of the different objectives
of the law school and proposing ideas to the faculty that can help the law
school to improve, and even to thrive. Deans
have the advantage of listening to many constituencies over time.
We can isolate themes, and we can determine whether there’s funding to
support the execution of those themes. Moreover,
because we are also faculty members, we can use our knowledge of faculty
concerns to test our hypotheses about whether the themes are realistic.
A shared vision is a wonderful example of shared governance at its best.
Deciding Who Has
What should determine who has
jurisdiction over a particular issue? Two
factors: (1) which group has the
most relevant expertise and (2) whether there’s a need for uniformity.
Just as state courts, under our system of “dual sovereignty, exercise
their concurrent jurisdiction with the federal courts to decide questions of
federal law all the time, the presumption should be that, for the core functions
of the university, the faculty should be allowed to experiment.
For the non-core functions, such as budget and facilities policy, the
expertise lies with the administration, and the need for uniformity is clearer.
For matters in which the faculty and the administration each have
expertise to bring to the table (and the concept of “vision” comes to mind
here), a more equally shared jurisdiction makes sense.
The most striking difference between a faculty member’s role in
governance and an administrator’s role involves the issue of timing.
Much of the faculty’s exclusive jurisdiction involves matters that take
a great deal of time to sort out.
With a few exceptions, there is sufficient time to sort things out.
Faculty hiring tends to follow the same pattern year after year:
determination of needs, culling through possibilities, interviewing,
voting offers to particular candidates. The
faculty can discuss admissions policy in the fall, with most applications coming
in right after Thanksgiving. Curricular
changes rarely need emergency action.
One of the frustrations that administrators have is that we want to have time to mull over decisions, but often there’s
neither sufficient time nor sufficient information before we have to make a
decision. Many decisions aren’t
earth shaking and don’t need a lot of time for mulling over, but the big
picture questions—how should we spend our limited resources?
how can we get more buy-in for some of our ideas?—often have real-time
deadlines that curtail our ability to engage in much introspection.
In issues of concurrent jurisdiction, the mindset of faculty members,
trained to research and examine issues from a variety of perspectives, is very
different from the mindset of deans, who want to keep things running.
Here’s an example from my own experience at the University of Houston
Law Center. The mindset difference
hit me square between the eyes after Tropical Storm Allison, which put over 12
feet of water in the bottom floors of our law school in fewer than twelve hours
June 9, 2001
). It wiped out roughly 175,000
volumes of books in our library, as well as ruining several offices, along with
the research and materials left in those offices.
Those of us who were at the law school in the summer of 2001 had to make
quick decisions to get the school up and running in time for fall 2001.
When the rest of the faculty and the students came back that August, they
questioned several of our decisions, wanting more time to examine all of the
options. The time that we took to
review one of those decisions—facilities allocation after the storm—was
necessary from an emotional point of view, but it put us at risk for losing FEMA
funds to repair some of the damage.
I treated our recovery effort as one under my exclusive decanal
jurisdiction, which came as a surprise to some of my faculty colleagues, who
thought that the recovery effort should have been subject to concurrent
If timing is one tricky issue for
jurisdiction, ties on matters of policy are another.
I’m intentionally skirting the issue of what happens in a stalemate,
for those matters that are in the intersection of the two jurisdictions.
Certainly, groups external to the university setting don’t see the
university “as” the faculty; most such groups tend to identify the
“university” as the President alone: a
fiction on two levels.
Internally, every constituent group views itself as “the” university
(or a part of “the” university). Because
the internal view and the external view are so radically different from each
other, any rule that purports to operate as a tie-breaker is going to be
The Venn diagram is a rough,
inelegant way of looking at shared governance.
There are other ways. Henry
Rosovsky’s book, The University:
An Owner’s Manual,
has a more robust description of all parts of university life.
Dean Rosovsky enunciates seven governance principles:
“Not everything is improved by making it more democratic.”
“There are basic differences between the rights of citizenship
in a nation and the rights that are attained by joining a voluntary
“Rights and responsibilities in universities should reflect the
length of commitment to the institution.”
“In a university, those with knowledge are entitled to a greater
“In universities, the quality of decisions is improved by
consciously preventing conflicts of interest.”
“University governance should improve the capacity for teaching
“To function well, a hierarchical system of governance requires
explicit mechanism of consultation and accountability.”
Taken together, these seven
principles help to flesh out which issues fit into the “shared governance”
circle, which ones fit into the “decanal governance” circle, and which ones
more appropriately belong in the intersection of the two.
In terms of governance, Rosovsky’s sixth and seventh principles are
particularly helpful. Pointing out
[O]ne has to make
certain that faculty time is used as productively as possible [on teaching and
research] Given the university’s
main mission, the entire enterprise has to be organized so as to allow members
of the instructional staff maximum opportunity to do their work, and to
minimize, insofar as possible, even officially discouraged diversions, primarily
excessive administrative responsibilities.
The desire to participate is great, but self-governance comes only at a
high price: it requires much time,
knowledge, commitment, and [a] lot of what the Germans call Sitzfleisch.
In some university activities—examples might be promotions, chairing
departments, curricular requirements—faculty participation is essential and
well worth the cost. No other group
can be an adequate substitute.
All too often,
however, the benefits of such faculty participation are illusory.
Faculty members typically complain of administrative burdens and of lack
of time in libraries or laboratories. Yet
they sit on innumerable committees without complaint, spending hours in
fruitless and inconsequential debates. Perhaps
the total number of hours used in this fashion is not all that large, but the
cumulative effects are considerable. Any
researcher knows that uninterrupted time is the most precious of all gifts, and
that is what administration and governance all too casually destroys.
To offset the need to involve
faculty members in the types of committees that don’t call for faculty
expertise and that steal precious time from the faculty’s teaching and
research missions, Rosovsky uses his seventh principle to encourage consultation
Using my Venn diagram motif, then, the group with jurisdiction over a
particular matter should consult with the other group before making a final
decision and should be accountable (both to the other group and to any
higher-ups, such as provosts, presidents, and ultimately regents/trustees) for
its decisions. Concurrent
jurisdiction—that intersection in the Venn diagram—should involve that same
consultation and accountability as well.
That’s the theory, at least.
To put that theory in practice, though, requires real prioritizing of
time. Even when one group has
jurisdiction, sometimes the effort that the group would take to make a
particular decision is not the best use of the group’s time.
A law dean has jurisdiction over physical space in the law school, but
she shouldn’t necessarily take the time to decide office moves, unless
there’s some serious procedural irregularity or equity issue involved.
The faculty has jurisdiction on curricular issues, but having a faculty
committee to schedule classes would be a colossal misallocation of faculty time.
So the circles in my Venn diagram are “softer” than they first
“Softness” in the circles
implies a meeting of the minds about why the group without jurisdiction is,
nonetheless, taking the lead on making certain decisions, lest—over time—a
culture develops that assumes
jurisdiction where only expediency was meant.
The risk of under-delegation is that the dean (or the faculty) spends too much
time making decisions that, in the long run, aren’t crucial to the role of the
dean (or the faculty), respectively, thereby neglecting those decisions that are
much more crucial in the long term.
The risk of over-delegation,
which is always tempting for extremely busy people (especially those with an
active schedule or demanding research agenda, requiring a lot of “quiet
time”), is that the person to whom decision-making has been delegated may not
have the long-term perspective necessary to make the best decision.
There’s a fine line between doing the right
thing, considering both short-term and long-term needs of the institution, and
doing the convenient thing.
Does the Venn diagram motif really
add anything to the understanding of shared governance?
I believe that it does, at least to the extent that it describes a world
in which shared governance is represented by authority that is occasionally
clearly shared and occasionally clearly separate.
When an institution uses the phrase “faculty governance” to refer to
“shared governance,” there’s the (incorrect) implication that the faculty
calls all the shots, not just the shots related to the university’s core
What the Venn diagram fails to
convey, though, is how nuanced the shared governance really is—that, even when
jurisdiction falls squarely in the bailiwick of either the “faculty” or the
“ administration,” there is a lot of informal give-and-take necessary in
order to ensure wise decisions.
In that sense, academia isn’t so
different from any other well-run enterprise.
In the best of worlds, those charged with making the hard decisions
recognize their limitations as well as their need for advice.
It’s a Zen thing.
© Nancy B. Rapoport 2003. All
rights reserved. My apologies to
Robert M. Persig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An
Inquiry into Values (Bantam Books reissue, 1984), for the jazz riff
on his title.
Dean and Professor of Law, University of
. The views expressed in this
essay are mine alone and not those of the
or the University of Houston Law Center.
Many thanks to David Bell, Seth Chandler, Kelli Cline, Richard
Edwards, Gordon Gee, Malcolm Gillis, Susan Hartman, Lonny Hoffman, Michael
Olivas, Larry Temkin, Morris and Shirley Rapoport, Jeff Van Niel, and
There is a competing argument that the university “is” the
students. Certainly, students
are the most important constituency, and their needs must be taken into
account. But the business of a
university goes beyond teaching students.
The university must both educate students and discover new
information through research; because the faculty is charged with both
aspects of the university’s missions, the faculty is at the heart of the
university. The service
function—and outreach to the community in general—is also important to
the university; again, though, the faculty is primarily in charge of this
obligation as well.
Bad decisions on these issues—e.g., discrimination in hiring or promotion
and tenure decisions; course content that is so clearly beyond the pale that
the students aren’t getting the course described in the course
catalog—will trigger administrative intervention.
Generally speaking, faculty members generally do not have (1) the
type of expertise or (2) the broader, university-wide view necessary to make
informed decisions on these other matters.
For these types of matters, the faculty is but one of many
It should be
remembered that colleges and universities are not the same as businesses,
and the same economic assumptions do not apply.
For example, strategic planning involves (or should involve) broad
involvement of internal and external constituencies.
However, the planning process is essentially top down in that senior
executives guide the development of the mission and vision statements, the
identification of strategic issues, and most important, the choice of
participants. Many people may
participate and there may be relatively open communication.
But faculty become[s] just another stakeholder group, along with
students, staff, alumni, and local dignitaries.
They may find themselves fighting for a niche in a new mission
because that niche will determine their resource allocations for the coming
years. Organizational change has
become an administrative responsibility rather than a faculty
Paul Rich, David Merchant & William L. Waugh,
in University Governance: More “Professional” and Less Academic, 585
Annals Am. Acad. Pol. & Soc. Sci.
84, 92 (2003) (citations omitted)
[hereinafter Issues in University
This flowchart is by no means complete, of course; I just wanted to
introduce the concept of the ambiguous authority of deans vis-à-vis the
Budgets and academic programs are inextricably linked:
is clearly undergoing profound change. Issues
of access, program quality, cost to students and their families, and cost to
taxpayers are challenging universities and colleges to reexamine their
products (or services). Public
institutions are experiencing decreasing state support, and as a result,
they are increasing tuition to make up the difference or face serious
deterioration of program quality. The
costs of education are not rising so much as public subsidies are
decreasing, with students and their families picking up the tab.
In many cases, raising special fees only reduces the state subsidy.
Moreover, tuition discount or scholarship programs are increasing the
number of students—further straining college and university resources. . .
this environment, university presidents are under increasing pressure to
meet performance standards, usually measured by the number of students
enrolled and the credit hours generated, but increasingly measured by
evidence of reputation and endowment growth (or occasionally by the success
of the sports teams). . . .
is also a cultural divide that encourages politicians and business leaders
to intervene in academic affairs. Roger
W. Bowen (2001), [former] president of the State University of New York at
New Paltz, has criticized the interference of political leaders and their
lack of tolerance for faculty, including faculty-administrator, opposition.
Bowen concluded that the academic world, which values free-thinking,
intellectual risk taking and challenges to authority and the rules,
conflicts with the political world, which prefers “certainty, order, and
rules.” Political leaders do
not like their authority to be challenged, and that is precisely what
leaders face in academic institutions. . . .
University Governance, supra n.6
, at 87-88 (citations omitted); see also id. at 92 (“The language of higher education is
increasingly punctuated with references to cost and revenue centers,
customer-driven programs, and other terminology more common to the business
world. While the profit motive
is certainly appropriate in private for-profit institutions, profit or value
is defined quite differently in academic institutions.”).
Remember, deans are the quintessential middle managers in
universities. They’re charged
with promoting the good of their academic units and with furthering the goals of the university as a whole.
On bad days, that means that deans are between a rock and a hard
place, making neither the academic unit nor the university happy.
On good days, deans can further the goals of the academic unit and
One of my colleagues has pointed out that an academic unit’s culture is
closely tied to how deans are selected for that unit.
In provost-driven selection processes, the faculty has significant
input, but the provost has the ultimate decision-making authority for hiring
(and firing) the dean. In
Henry Rosovsky, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at
, puts it best:
Another critical virtue of academic life—I am thinking of tenured
professors at, say,
’s top fifty to one hundred institutions—is the absence of a boss.
A boss is someone who can tell you what to do, and requires you to do
it—an impairment of freedom. As
a dean—i.e., as an administrator—my boss was the president.
I served at his pleasure; he could and did give me orders.
But as a professor, I recognized no master save peer pressure, no
threat except, perhaps, an unlikely charge of moral turpitude.
No profession guarantees its practitioners such a combination of
independence and security as university research and teaching.
Rosovsky, The University: An
Owner’s Manual 163-64 (1990) [hereinafter Rosovsky].
Any dean (or person who might want to someday
become a dean) should read Rosovsky’s chapter on “A Dean’s Day.”
at 37. It’s the most accurate
description of an “average” day I’ve read.
For the best “live action” description of a dean’s day, no one
can beat the training at the ABA New Deans’ School (a/k/a the Velvet Boot
Camp), aptly entitled A Day in the
[P]residential authority in the academic realm should be thought of
as judicial rather than executive. The
president is not given power in order to select who, in his opinion, is the
best scholar of a certain subject. It
is his task to monitor procedures, to adjudicate differences among
experts—in brief, to develop a clear policy or to take a specific action
based on the many voices of those with deep knowledge.
The principle that those with knowledge should have a greater say is
not, I believe, subverted by presidential authority.
n.11, at 273.
A colleague (and friend) of mine at another university has pointed
out that I may be describing the ideal world here, rather than the actual
world, in which some deans use their carrots and sticks to force the hands
of their faculty colleagues even in terms of faculty hiring and curricular
matters. And it’s no secret
that deans will make their
preferences known, either publicly or privately, and that we can use our
budget authority to support some programs over others.
That ability to
discriminate among programs is part of our job.
Supporting every program equally doesn’t move an academic unit
forward nearly as quickly as does giving the few excellent programs
continuing support; and yet, it’s also true that supporting only the best
programs runs the risk of serious weakness in the rest of the academic unit.
We have to make tough (and unpopular) calls.
My only advice is the
advice that Tom Read gave me at the American Bar Association’s
in 1998. Tom gave us two rules:
(1) don’t take things personally, because they rarely are meant
personally; and (2) don’t ever retaliate.
Rule #1 is sometimes difficult; rule #2 is (surprisingly) not at all
difficult. If you have the best
interest of your school at heart, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you
don’t like a person or a program, if the person or program is doing good
things and deserves funding.
See Frank T. Read, The
Unique Role of The Law School Dean in American Legal Education, 51
J.L. Educ. 389, 390 (2001) [hereinafter
Read] (“[T]he supposedly high-and-mighty dean .
. . has slowly devolved from the classic stereotype of a benign autocrat to,
in too many cases, little more than an embattled, dispirited juggler trying
to accommodate increasingly fractious constituencies.”)..
I’m not alone in using this terminology.
See, e.g., Ad Hoc Committee
on Faculty Governance, Report on
Faculty Governance, 42 J.L. Educ.
299 (1992). Here’s one of the
proposals that the Report suggested:
does not seem possible to describe with any real precision the current
division of decisional responsibilities between the Dean and the Faculty.
In a loose sense, however, it seems fair to say that it is understood
that the Dean should decide administrative and managerial issues, while the
Faculty makes all important policy decisions.
at 299. The Report is
delightfully tongue-in-cheek and worth reading.
Even though it’s a parody of real proposals, it does capture the
traditional view of shared governance.
For the remainder of this article, I’m going to leave out the “creative
activity” part of this formula, not because “creative activity” is
unimportant, but because I have more familiarity with “research” in the
law school sense. I know that
creative activity is important for, e.g., the fine arts.
The faculty of the fine arts is in a better position to judge the
creative activity in their fields than am I.
Final judgments on educational questions are best left in the hands
of those with professional qualifications:
academics who have experienced a lengthy period of apprenticeship and
have given evidence of performing high-quality work, in teaching and
research, as judged by their peers on the basis of broad evidence.
This applies particularly to faculty control of curriculum.
The chances of having courses taught well—with verve and
imagination—are greatly diminished when content and structure are imposed
by “outsiders” without debate and discussion.
n.Error! Bookmark not defined.,
at 270; see also Issues in University
Governance, supra n.6
, at 95 (“Administration is those processes that are related to the
allocation of resources, including planning, human resource management, and
particularly financial management. Governance
is those processes related to the technology of the university, including
the academic programs, faculty, and scholarship.
Preserving the distinction, so that the dog wags the tail, rather
than the reverse, is essential for maintaining healthy academic
Tom Read, Dean Emeritus of South Texas College of Law (as well Dean
Emeritus of the University of Tulsa, Indiana
, and the
Furthermore, the modern law
teacher, reflecting different generational experiences, demands
participation in all basic academic governance decisions.
The lines between what have traditionally been thought to be decanal
powers and what have been thought to be faculty academic powers have
blurred. Faculty, more and more,
want to be consulted about everything. Faculty
appointment committees dominate the hiring structure.
Faculty promotion and tenure committees dominate the promotion and
tenure structure. Faculty
curriculum committees organize and control the curriculum.
Faculties set standards, and more and more faculties want executive
committees or advisory committees to the dean on what have traditionally
been decanal powers—control over the purse, control over the faculty's
course assignments, and so on.
, at 391.
Budget, of course, affects these core issues, dictating everything
from the ability to hire a new faculty member to determining the break-even
point (admittedly, an art rather than a science) of expanding or reducing
the size of an entering class.
These constituencies include, but aren’t limited to,
Regents/Trustees, legislatures and the executive branch, alumni, and other
friends of the university.
Bookmark not defined., at 266 (“Some areas of governance and
policy are properly deemed beyond faculty jurisdiction, usually for reasons
of lack of specialized competence or conflict of interest.”).
For an interesting take on shared governance, see Susan J. Becker, Thanks,
But I’m Just Looking: Or Why I
Don’t Want to Be a Dean, 49 J.L.
Educ. 595, 598-99 (1999)[hereinafter Becker].
Remember, a lot of us who are administrators started out as
academics, and we still perform the core faculty duties of research and
teaching. (I think that we have
the service function well covered, too.)
The hard part is doing everything well at once.
major tension in the modern deanship is between the role of a resource
provider and that of academic leader. The
qualities that produce success in one area are not necessarily the qualities
that propel success in another. A
good resource provider may not be a good academic leader and vice versa.
A truly successful dean has to be talented in both areas.
If you drop the resource ball you will fail, even if the faculty that
hired you told you they wanted you to be an academic leader.
Or, if you drop the academic leader role with the faculty, despite
the fact you bring in buckets of money, you will fail, even though you may
have been hired by an administration that told you they wanted a fundraiser.
The modern American dean must do both and must do both well.
It is a challenge. And
overriding it all is the need to be the visionary leader who can convince
all the constituencies of the need to move in the same direction at the same
time. The dirty little secret
for most law deans is that 95 percent of the dean's problems are not “what
we ought to do” but rather “how do we keep all of those divergent souls
moving generally in the same direction toward common goals?”
Read, supra n.14
, at 395-96. The other
dirty little secret is that we can’t play all of our various roles equally
well, all of the time. Often,
our scholarship and teaching suffer from too little time devoted to them.
Sometimes, our decanal roles suffer because we need to devote at
least some time to research and teaching if we are still to think of
ourselves as faculty members as well as deans.
Cf. Nancy B. Rapoport, Going
in Sixty Seconds, 31 U. Toledo L.
Rev. 703 (2000).
I am particularly grateful to my colleague Lonny Hoffman for setting
me up with a well-chosen excerpt from Hart and Wechsler to help
articulate my governance philosophy.
See Richard H. Fallon, Jr.,
Daniel J. Meltzer, & David L. Shapiro, Hart and Wechsler’s The Federal
Courts and The Federal System 444-455 (1996) (discussing federal
subject matter concepts and the
concepts of exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction
between federal and state courts).
For more information on Venn diagrams generally, see www.venndiagram.com;
See, e.g., Stewart J. Schwab, Limited-Domain
Positivism as an Empirical Proposition, 82 Cornell
L. Rev. 1111, 1113 (1997).
Bookmark not defined. and accompanying text.
Bookmark not defined., at 271 (“Let me stress again that the
faculty does not wield unqualified power.
Most educational decisions taken by a faculty are reviewed by
academic deans, presidents, and trustees . . . .”).
Deans often come and go (or return to the faculty), but most tenured
faculty members will stay at their academic institution for their entire
careers. The curricular trend du
jour shouldn’t override the entire faculty’s analysis of the
appropriate curriculum for a particular institution.
Deans are, however, useful for prodding the faculty into engaging in
such an analysis.
Two points here: obviously,
the faculty is likely to take the dean’s proposals seriously, because
deans and faculty have to rely on each other so much for so many things;
therefore, I don’t want to underestimate the dean’s behind-the-scenes
power in this example. See
n.Error! Bookmark not defined.,
I also don’t want to rule out the dean’s ability to bring up
curricular revisions again, after a few years have passed, particularly if
the composition of the faculty has changed in the meantime.
But see n.4
, supra, and accompanying
Who gets to teach which course at which time is a matter of
negotiation between the faculty member and the administration (typically,
the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs); see also n.4
, supra, and accompanying
If you’re reading this essay wondering if my take on shared
governance reflects issues of gender, at least in part, let me point you to
Herma Hill Kay’s wonderful article on women law deans.
Herma Hill Kay, Women Law School Deans: A Different Breed, or
Just One of the Boys?, 14
Yale J.L. & Feminism 219
(2002); see also Robert
Birnbaum, How Academic Leadership Works: Understanding Success and Failure
in the College Presidency 37 (1992)[hereinafter Birnbaum]
(“Effective and ineffective academic leaders come in all sizes, shapes,
colors, genders, levels of experience, and personalities.”); id. at 44-46.
The only negative thing that I have to say about Dean Kay’s article
is that it minimizes her own key role in legal education and her renowned
mentoring of other deans.
I firmly believe that effective leadership depends on context.
A good leader at one institution is not necessarily a good leader at
all other institutions, see Birnbaum,
, at 37; see also n. 10 ,supra; although experience at
one institution certainly helps to inform
later decisions at other institutions.
Don’t forget that deans are middle managers, so we get some of our
marching orders from the central administration.
e.g., Van Cleve Morris, Deaning: Middle Management in Academe 119-120
(1981) [hereinafter Morris].
As Morris points out, “[A] discontinuity of expectation exists
between the faculty, who live[s] in a kind of do-your-own-thing world, and
the academic vice-president, who lives in a superior-to-subordinate
accountability world. The dean,
with one foot in each, is a bridge that is expected to join these two
Some of my faculty colleagues at various institutions may disagree
with me on this one, but the job of deciding who teaches where, who should
get which offices, and what to do when new space is either scarce or becomes
available is more efficiently allocated to the administration rather than
left to a majority-rule faculty vote.
Phoebe Haddon brings to mind another jurisdictional issue.
At the schools I know well, deans serve at the pleasure of the
provost (or the president, if the dean reports directly to the president).
Does the provost or president have to consult with the faculty before
firing the dean? See
Phoebe A. Haddon, Academic
Freedom and Governance: A Call for Increased Dialogue and Diversity,
L. Rev. 1561 (1988) [hereinafter Haddon].
The technical answer is no. But
see n.10, supra.
But a provost or president who fires a popular dean will face
backlash. Sometimes that
backlash is worth it; sometimes, it’s not.
See also Valerie Strauss,
Decides To Retain Law Dean; Facing Revolt, President Changes Mind,
April 18, 1998
, at A01.
But see n.Error!
Bookmark not defined., supra.
There may be institutions in which the dean has more affirmative
power, but I’m not aware of any examples.
There’s a fine line here. Not
liking the candidate is probably not a sufficient reason to disregard the
faculty’s vote; the candidate’s effect on salary compression or the fact
that the positive vote on the candidate was very close might be better
reasons. Rejecting the
faculty’s first choice of a qualified candidate is not often a smart move.
, at 125 (describing which issues are within exclusive faculty
jurisdiction and which ones aren’t); see also n.16
, supra, and accompanying
, at 25-26 (1992)(“[T]he real purposes of articulating a vision are
to give constituents confidence in the leader’s competence and convince
them that the leader has listened to them and been influenced by them. . . .
A shared vision tells constituents not necessarily that the
institution will be different, but that it will be better.”).
See Read, supra n.14
, at 395 (“Despite shared governance everywhere, any dean who is
not a visionary will not survive. The
dean must be the focal point for articulating the vision of the school in
order to coax most of the constituencies into moving in the same direction
most of the time.”).
A lot of work in governance uses a committee structure.
The faculty tends to take committee work more seriously if the
administration recognizes hard work on a committee, providing both
intangible rewards (lots of praise) and tangible ones (release time, raises
based in part on service). One
of my frustrations is that unless I find out whether committee members
worked hard and were productive, it’s difficult to figure out who should
get rewarded for this very important service role.
Another frustration is that the same faculty members are tapped
repeatedly for important committees because they have, in the past, worked
hard on committees. The
“reward” for doing work well tends to be more work.
This type of reward is unfair to the faculty member who has worked
hard on many important committees. Entrusting
important work to people who have, in the past, not worked hard in their
assigned committees can harm the institution by causing it to stagnate.
I’d be interested in hearing what solutions there are for this
particular problem, which isn’t at all unique to academia.
Individual variation among academic units on budget and facilities issues is a different
concept, and—since I’m writing from a dean’s perspective and not from
the perspective of the central administration—certainly worth considering.
(I’m all in favor of recognizing that different academic units have
different needs and traditions.) Susan
Becker puts it best:
school, as one of seven colleges of an urban university, is caught in a
classic Catch-22. University
leaders exhort the law school to create its own unique identity, which can
be leveraged into greater academic recognition as well as development
dollars. But the law school is
not allowed to color outside any of the university's lines.
Indeed, a common response by university officials to any law school
proposal is “If we let you do X, then the other colleges will want to do
X.” So we are constantly
striving to distinguish ourselves by moving in lockstep with everyone else.
I am the only one seeing the irony here?
Becker, supra n.20
, at 599.
The idea that the
administration should control budgets and facilities (rather than deciding
those issues by faculty vote) is based on the fact that the administration
does have more expertise in these areas, and experimentation in these areas
is likely to decrease the functioning of the university or individual
For example, the faculty and the administration could work together
on a shared vision, and then the faculty could vote on the proposed vision,
with the administration then adopting it (assuming no clear disagreements
about the vision). If the
faculty proposes its vision alone, then the administration needs its own
input and the discretion to adopt it or not; likewise, if the administration
proposes its own vision, then the faculty needs its own input and similar
discretion to adopt it or not. Neither
the faculty nor the administration should put the other in the position of
going along with a vision that truly isn’t shared by both.
The dialogue itself is important.
Cf. Haddon, supra n. 37 at 569-72.
academic inquiry in discussion and research to flourish, teachers must
reside in a free and autonomous center in which they can pursue ideas
through robust discourse inside the classroom and uninhibited exploration of
views outside. The absence of a
more scientific formula for academic freedom should lead faculty to insist
on an open environment that minimizes institutional control over the ability
to present and pursue ideas.
Haddon, supra n. 37, at 1575.
governance leaves law school administrators with two equally odious choices
when determining whether a particular matter requires consultation with
option is to make a decision, and then endure the wailing and gnashing of
teeth by faculty who claim the administration has trespassed on their sacred
ground. The other
option is to ask for faculty input in the first instance, thereby
guaranteeing a minimum of six months' delay in reaching a final resolution.
This second option is inevitably accompanied by a faculty critique
that the administration isn't moving the law school forward quickly enough.
, at 598-99; see also Read,
, at 390 (“True to the human condition,
those constituencies who share power generally accept no responsibility for
the result, but they frequently want to dictate or control the
If I had to do it all over again, I would still have wanted us to
move quickly during the summer, see n. 54, infra, but I
would have provided the faculty, students, and staff with more periodic
updates during the summer (and more pictures) to be more sensitive to their
visceral (grieving) reaction following their return to campus.
Perhaps, however, the surest test
of a dean comes when a vice-president who is otherwise supportive
nevertheless hands down a policy directive with which the faculty is in
strong disagreement. The
situation may be further exacerbated if this directive has been decided upon
with little or no consultation with the dean or the faculty.
As noted earlier the vice-president takes the measure of a dean, in
part, by how quickly and how effectively he or she can deliver the vote,
that is, convert the demurring faculty as a group to the policy position
being enunciated and directed by the vice-president.
Here we have a paradigm case of a major confrontation not merely
between the dean’s two constituencies, but more importantly between two
worlds of action where the rationale for the final decision is drawn from
two different political logics. In
this brokerage capacity a dean’s administrative skills are finally counted
, at 129.
Professor Lonny Hoffman has pointed out that
In theory, for federal jurisdiction purposes, express preemption makes for
an easy case. (If Congress
expressly preempts all state law, that ends the discussion; but just as
express preemption cases will often involve thorny questions of statutory
interpretation, so too may there be grey areas in faculty governance, as set
forth in university by-laws or common law understandings of the scope of
faculty v. decanal authority.) For
a cite about express preemption cases being not so simple, see Geier v.
American Honda Motor Co. 529 U.S. 861 (2000).
Email from Lonny Hoffman to author,
(on file with author). Now you
know why I love having such great colleagues here.
Not only will they read drafts, but they’ll give great substantive
Not only does a President (or Chancellor, depending on a particular
university’s terminology) have to report to the Trustees or Regents (one
fallacy), but also the very fact of shared governance means that there are
certain issues that the President can’t affect.
The same problem is true at the decanal level:
deans have to report to provosts, and deans don’t have jurisdiction
over every issue facing the college.
A true tie-breaker means that it’s time to change leadership,
because the ability to lead by persuading has broken down.
I know that this statement is going to come back to haunt me later,
but I believe it, so I’m going to say it.
at 262 (italics omitted).
at 265 (italics omitted).
at 267 (italics omitted).
at 269 (italics omitted).
at 273 (italics omitted).
at 276 (italics omitted).
at 277 (italics omitted).
n.Error! Bookmark not defined.,
I delegate a lot of space allocation decisions to our Faculty
Facilities Committee, for two reasons. First,
the time that I would spend on making those decisions (rather than reviewing
them, once they’re suggested) is time spent away from other decanal
duties, including fundraising and setting overall priorities.
Second, I have no spatial-visualization skills at
all. Space allocation issues
are very important, but I’m of better use to the law school by providing
oversight, rather than proposing changes.
Many thanks to Larry Temkin for making this point (and the point in
the next paragraph) much more eloquently than I could.
Email from Larry Temkin to author,
Sept. 3, 2003
, on file with author).
See, e.g., nn. 47-48, supra,
and accompanying text.
New Deans’ School also taught me that, for 90% of the decisions
that deans should make, all that matters is that any
decision gets made, not what that decision is; for the remaining 10% of
decisions, the decision itself is important.
The trick, of course, is in figuring out which decisions fall within
the 10% category.
See nn. 63-66, supra,
and accompanying text.