One of the unique characteristics of institutions of higher education is “shared governance,” a form of governance that must be in place to meet criteria for accreditation. This model divides governance responsibilities among three groups—the governing board, the administration, and the faculty—and expects each of them to honor the boundaries of their responsibilities, even as they work together to advance their institution.
The governing board has ultimate responsibility for governance and is responsible for choosing the President or Chancellor and for approving policies as well as the budget of the institution. The governing board is expected to delegate managerial duties to the administration and control over the curriculum to the faculty. The lines between the areas of responsibility can be vague; and communication, consultation, and consensus building are vital for effective governance. Although time-consuming, successful shared governance can unite an institution and inspire a collective sense of mission that is difficult to replicate in any other industry.
On Tuesday afternoon of this week, the best qualities of shared governance were on display at the NMSU Board of Regents meeting. During the public comment period, 19 members of the faculty, staff, and student body spoke to the Regents to encourage them not to transfer $1.1 million from the instruction and general budget to athletics. Although most of the speakers spoke appreciatively about athletics, they were thoughtful and eloquent in their concerns about preserving the quality of NMSU’s academic programs and the harmful effects any further erosion of funding would have on our ability to serve our students. It was a bravura performance by some of our most accomplished and respected colleagues in a setting and situation unique to American higher education.
Our Regents were on the receiving end of the comments and deserve our appreciation for listening patiently for 45 minutes, assimilating the information and concerns provided to them, and unanimously deciding not to transfer the I&G funding to athletics. The Regents’ decision to extend the repayment period for the Athletic Department debt was a good compromise, freeing up some funding for athletics, while having a less stressful impact on academic programs.
Shared governance can be messy and frustrating, but when all parties participate in good faith, it can also unite and inspire. Thanks, everyone, for helping to make it work at NMSU.
With all best wishes,