Promoting transparency and engagement in shared governance in universities and colleges

The new Chair of the Penn State Faculty Senate has decided to blog about his work on the Faculty Senate. The blog is called: "Show and Tell: Sharing while chairing the Penn State Faculty Senate".

The author, Larry Catá Backer, is a professor in the Law School and also teaches at the International Relations school. It seems a bit odd that neither of these schools existed at UP when I graduated ten years ago and that he's the Faculty Chair, but that's probably a good thing.

The most recent post is a wonderful critique of the recent announcement of the two new PR firms that they university has hired, at least as they relate to internal communications. You can read that post here.

He's only been in this new job a short time, so he only has two posts. The one on the PR firms and the first one, which is really just a copy of his speech to the Faculty Senate upon taking his new job. In "Remarks on Assuming the Duties of Chair of the PSU Faculty Senate," he shares a number of "lessons learned," during the recent scandal. He delves more deeply into each one in his blog/speech, but I thought I'd copy the lesson themselves below as well:

1. The administrative apparatus of a large university is not always prepared for crisis, and tends to handle crisis badly.

2. University governance structures that are based on a strong President model are especially susceptible to mismanaging crisis, especially where the crisis itself focuses on the office of the President.

3. Large bureaucracies resist nimbleness-they prefer gesture to substantive changes if only because they are less drastic and because they hold the promise of substituting formal for functional changes.

4. Faculties, and faculty organizations, did not well serve the interests of the university in this crisis when they assume that servility is the highest form of service.

While some of this might seem self-evident to anyone who's followed this debacle, the post really examines the rationale for and implications of each one. This guy seems like just the chap for the job. It's reassuring to know that there are smart, thoughtful people in positions of leadership that are engaged on improving Dear Old State.

For the Glory,


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