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October 3, 2015

Regents need remedial lesson on shared governance

by Frank Durham

In the Press-Citizen story of Sept. 26, "Regents defend early meeting with Harreld," Regent Katie Mulholland is quoted as saying, "In my role as a regent, we honor the shared governance of the faculty and staff. But shared governance is really different from shared decision-making."

No. In fact, it is not.

Shared governance is shared decision-making. Mulholland displays her ignorance of how the University of Iowa works. Or more nearly she is showing the meaning of the new normal she and her colleagues are pushing with Bruce Harreld's selection as president of the University of Iowa.

While articulating the many principled points at which regents and administrators should collaborate evenly with the faculty to govern the university, the American Association of University Professors emphasizes shared governance, which is also called “joint effort,” in the selection of a university president. The AAUP’s “Statement on the Government of Colleges and Universities” states that:

“Joint effort of a most critical kind must be taken when an institution chooses a new president. The selection of a chief administrative officer should follow upon a cooperative search by the governing board and the faculty, taking into consideration the opinions of others who are appropriately interested.” The statement emphasizes that “[T]he president should have the confidence of the board and the faculty.” If only ...

In the recent search for a new president of the University of Iowa, faculty, students and staff made every effort to provide well-informed feedback on the candidates to the Board of Regents. We — all of us who have been dismissed from the tradition of shared governance by the regents — know very much what we are about as a university.

Rather than boring from within against the faculty, staff and students, a legitimate Board of Regents would have considered the professional academic expertise of these campus constituents in order to collaborate in the selection of a president. Instead, we have been overrun by force. That is not how this university has gone from “good to great” since 1847.

Frank Durham is membership co-chair of the American Association of University Professors' University of Iowa chapter.

This comment first appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen

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