Mendocino College Board of Trustees Handbook.
Shared governance, the practice of involving those that are affected by decisions in the decision-making process, is mandated by AB1725.
The Board of Governors adopted regulations that implement the legislation. These are contained in sections 53200-53204 Title V of the Administrative Code of California. Shared governance does not necessarily imply total agreement, nor is the same level of involvement by all parties necessary. The ultimate responsibility for all decisions rests with the board of trustees.
The regulations state that faculty, staff, and students have the "right to participate effectively in governance." However, the regulations that reference faculty add to and clarify their rights. The regulations acknowledge the right of academic senates to assume primary responsibility for making recommendations in the areas of curriculum and academic standards. Local boards are required to consult collegially with academic senates on academic and professional matters.
"Consult collegially" means that the governing board, when developing or adopting policies related to academic and professional matters must either:
1. rely primarily upon the advice and judgment of the academic senate; or
2. reach mutual agreement with the senate.
"Academic and professional matters" is further defined in the regulations to include: curriculum, degree requirements, grading policies, student progress standards, faculty role in governance structures, accreditation, professional development, program review processes, and processes for planning and budgeting.
The statewide Academic Senate and the Community College League of California jointly prepared a set of guidelines (questions and answers) to assist local boards and senates implement shared governance. Those guidelines are included in the 1997 Trustee Handbook as Chapter 21.
The regulations for staff involvement state that staff members should be provided an opportunity to participate in the development of policies, procedures and processes that have a significant effect on them. The regulations do not outline those policy areas- that determination is left to the local district. The regulations do state that staff recommendations be given every reasonable consideration when the board is considering related policies, procedures and processes.
The regulations for student involvement state that students should be provided an opportunity to participate in the development of policies, procedures and processes that have a significant effect on them. The regulations state that student recommendations be given every reasonable consideration when considering related policies.
The regulations list the areas which are considered to have a significant effect on students. Those areas include: grading, student codes of conduct, academic discipline, the curriculum, educational programs, processes for budgeting and planning, student standards, student services planning and development, fees, and faculty evaluation and hiring.
BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES
The value of shared governance is found in its inclusive nature. Colleges which have a significant level of employee participation in the decision-making process cite a number of benefits. When shared governance processes are used, there is a greater understanding and acceptance of decisions, a greater commitment to their implementation, and an understanding of, and commitment to, the goals and objectives of the organization. Shared decision-making promotes practices involving awareness of conflict and the ability to used conflict resolution techniques. The decisions which are made then include many expert contributions and points of view.
Shared governance also has its challenges. Those involved in the decisions must do their "homework," and often benefit by professional development activities to gain needed skills and knowledge. It requires time away from the other duties of the job. Decisions take longer: the processes for gathering comments and making recommendations must take into account longer decision-making cycles.
Shared decisions lead to shared accountability. While many may feel some responsibility for the decision, who is ultimately responsible and accountable is often unclear. There are differing expectations and understandings of the shared governance processes. Often disagreements about processes and representation become a substitute for addressing educational issues. The lack of clear authority and discussions over processes and power can be frustrating.
Shared governance reflects a broad-based movement in organizations to involve people at various levels in making decisions. It reflects a movement away from autocratic, hierarchical structures to those in which decisions, responsibility, and accountability are distributed at all levels of the organizations. In order for it to be successful, people must have access to and use the information necessary to make good decisions. Conflict resolution, teamwork, and other communication and collaboration skills must be taught through professional development activities. Shared governance is empowering and inclusive, but to be used well and wisely, people must enter into it with an attitude of respect for others and a sincere desire to use their power to make decisions for the benefit of the entire organization.
California Education Code, Sections 53200-53204 and Sections 51023.5 and 51023.7
Nussbaum, Thomas J., Evolving Community College Shared Governance to Better Serve the Public Interest, California Community Colleges, Sacramento, 1995
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1997
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited.