The Problems of Faculty Governance


This paper will present a brief history of the development of faculty governance in American universities during the twentieth century. I will review the types of governance structures that have emerged, examine the impact on the institutions in which they function, and discuss the problems that have arisen between the two.
Since the middle ages when universities began to emerge faculty governance in institutions of higher education has been the focus of much examination by faculty and administration alike. Medieval universities exhibited many of the features of higher education still in evidence today. Those familiar features include faculty autonomy, lectures by masters to students, examinations and the conferral of degrees. American institutions developed in the image of English and other European models, especially with regard to curriculum, but quickly moved away from their progenitors in the areas of administrative and academic governance.
University governance discussions have often focused around the seemingly eternal struggle between the faculty organization, be it a senate or a council, and the university administration, as they battle for the control of the academic environment and setting of the academic direction of the institution. Of a more peripheral nature, student participation in institution governance has sometimes appeared to wax and wane seeming to be more tied to the outside political and economic climate than driven by academic or curricular issues. The other variable in the governance equation is that of staff participation in campus decision making, a role that is often overlooked by faculty, administrative, and student leaders and for which there is very little research data currently available. Consequently, staff issues and influence will not be covered here.
Historical Context

A review of the historical literature demonstrates that from the colonial period to the mid-nineteenth century, colleges in the United States were small uncomplicated organizations that were easily managed. In the 1860\'s Indiana University was ranked as one of the nation\'s largest institutions with a faculty of less than twenty-five members. University trustees, considered at the center of a college\'s authority, selected the president for an unlimited term to act as their executive agent. The president also served as the principle instructor for the college. Since most college tutors were recent graduates on their way to a different permanent occupation the president was often the most mature man of learning in the institution. Instructors in American\'s early colleges were much different from the sophisticated and specialized professors of today. They were most often young, taught all subjects, and usually stayed with a single class for four years. Their primary contribution to institutional governance was in assisting the president in regulating student behavior.
Over time campuses became larger and more complex and administrative duties devolved to specialists. In the 1890s librarians and registrars first appeared followed by deans of academic units. By the turn of the century larger universities began to appoint their first vice presidents. As the American university was transformed by research and the professionalism influences from their continental peers, the presidents stopped grading papers and began analyzing balances sheets.
American higher education also became home for a new faculty. Universities recruited ambitious, research-trained holders of the Ph.D. to their campuses where they hoped to make permanent careers of their academic disciplines. The curriculum grew and with the growth of intellectual specialization, the faculty gained new roles and new power. With this new power faculty dictated that only trained, sophisticated professional could conduct the intellectual work of the American college and university.
Academic senates and other campuswide arrangements for faculty decision making spread rapidly with the expansion of higher education following the Civil War, but presidents continued to have the dominant institutional voice. In 1915 the American Association of University Professors\' (AAUP) created their General Declaration of Principles which argued that the professor must be free from any financial pressure. The Academy felt that like federal judges, a professor\'s tenure in office should be unconditional and judged only by faculty peers. Thus, through the mid twentieth century the concept of tenure fostered a sense of employment security among faculty never before realized in the academy. This same sense of security coupled with a growing self regulatory spirit among faculty bodies maintained the independence of intellectual inquiry at their institutions through an enhanced and strengthened governance