Shared governance—a “tradition unique to the higher education sector”—is imperiled as colleges and universities wrestle with the “brutal math” created by COVID’s shutdown of campuses, long-term shrinking enrollments, and, for public institutions, state funding that never returned to pre-Recession levels. Plus, these same state governments that provide more than half of the public universities’ instructional budgets are now facing an estimated $765 billion shortfall over the next three years.
Take the case of Radford University, a state school in Virginia with nearly 10,000 students that’s now facing the imperative to cut between $5 and $20 million of its $225.7 million budget over the next year. Contrary to the letter and spirit of shared governance, the school’s trustees in mid-June passed a resolution giving the university’s President unilateral budget-cutting powers to “address the challenges associated with the COVID-19 global health pandemic.” This could mean suspending the guidelines laid out in the faculty handbook under “fiscal exigency,” guidelines that call for the president to form an ad hoc committee primarily made up of faculty members to craft a plan, and that give this committee the right to appeal to the governing board if they and the president cannot substantially agree.
The backlash—delayed by the two weeks it took for the president to share the board’s resolution with the faculty—was fierce, from the faculty senate and, most recently, from the American Association of University Professors. Condemning the resolution, the state faculty senate organization criticized it “for its fundamental violation of the principles of academic freedom protected by tenure and shared governance, and for the likely damage this resolution will bring to the integrity of the institution.” The AAUP’s message was much the same.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly