Reflections on Shared Governance

Since its beginnings in 1868, the conviction that faculty must be responsible for the governance of the colleges and disciplines has been a part of UC. But it was only after the establishment of the modern Academic Senate 75 years ago that the practice of "shared governance" became a reality. Following are views on its importance and its legacy at Berkeley.

"I believe the practice of sharing decision making with faculty is responsible for the strength and vitality of the Berkeley campus. Looking back at the last 75 years, we have to be deeply impressed by the central role the Academic Senate has played in mitigating some of the many explosive controversies that threatened to tear this university apart. Thanks to shared governance and our faculty's unflagging commitment to the university's mission, we have emerged from each controversy stronger than before."

--Chancellor Tien

"Shared governance describes the relation between the administration and the faculty, and is to be distinguished from both top-down and bottom-up governance. The faculty are comprehensively involved under the bottom-up model, negligibly involved under top-down governance and significantly but selectively involved in giving shape and direction to the university under shared governance. A case for shared governance can be made on every campus, but its importance varies with the degree to which a university aspires to academic excellence. It is no accident that academic excellence and shared governance are everywhere recognized as defining attributes of Berkeley."

--Oliver Williamson, current senate chair; professor of business administration, economics and law.

"Shared governance, in particular, the role of the senate budget committee and promotions committees, has been important in maintaining a top level of faculty quality over many years."

--Kenneth S. Pitzer, former senate vice chair; professor emeritus of chemistry

"My experience as chairperson of the Academic Senate taught me that the concept of shared governance represents a leap of faith that groups with potentially conflicting interests can work together in a common enterprise. As a matter of day-to-day routine matters, the faculty was willing to let the "old senate hands" carry the load. But when an issue touched the fundamentals of how the university should be governed, the faculty was eager to participate. In such encounters, it is easy to forget that the other players are also trying to achieve what they think is best for the university. Only if we are willing to respect each other and deliberate in good faith can we achieve our mutual goals. These lessons have particular salience in today's environment."

--Herma Hill Kay, former senate chair; dean and professor of law

"Berkeley's Academic Senate was established 75 years ago to create an institutional format for the concept of 'shared governance' between the university administration and the faculty. This sharing of responsibility has not been widely implemented in other academic institutions, since it requires the admin-istration's willingness to share power and the faculty's willingness to spend time and effort to make the system work. In my view, it has been a very important element in maintaining Berkeley's status as a world class university."

--Gene Brucker, Shepard Professor of History, emeritus

"Representing the collective voice of a large and distinguished faculty, with a significant diversity of views on virtually every important policy issue, the modern senate is a fascinating institution that has flourished for 75 years in a process of creative tension. For those of us privileged to serve in the senate leadership, however, I think that the most striking thing of all is the shared faculty sense--whatever the differences that have to be resolved--that the senate has the unique obligation to be the keep of the flame of academic excellence.

This spirit infuses every senate discussion and animates the process of decision in a host of committees and other forums. Without understanding this spirit, it is impossible to explain why and how Berkeley has remained a pre-eminent academic institution worldwide with such extraordinary consistency for so many decades. And, in fact, it is well recognized in academic institutions everywhere."

--Harry N. Scheiber, Riesenfeld Professor of Law and History; former Senate Chair


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
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