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TACT Quarterly eBulletin

Oct/Nov/Dec 2003 Vol. LVI No. 2

Texas Association of College Teachers ~ Defending Academic Freedom

President's Column
How TACT Works For You
by Dr. James Puckett, TACT President

“Shared Governance”

Shared governance, wherein faculty must participate in governance of the university, is now state law. No, not in Texas, but in Arizona:

“...the faculty members of the universities, through their elected faculty representatives, shall share responsibility for academic and educational activities and matters related to faculty personnel. The faculty members of each university, through their elected faculty representatives, shall participate in the governance of their respective universities and shall actively participate in the development of university policy" (University of Arizona).

Isn't it time that we had such a law in Texas? Without shared governance, we will get more policies that damage tenure and academic freedom such as those enacted in the A&M System.

The integrity of our institutions and the degrees that students receive may be damaged without full faculty participation in the political process and shared governance. This threat arises from declining state funding for higher education and the legislature’s approval of a pilot program in which three community colleges will be given the authority to grant baccalaureate degrees in technical areas. Community colleges are funded locally and can already offer their degrees at a cost to students lower than that charged by state universities. With declining state support, many state universities may not survive if locally funded community colleges are allowed to offer baccalaureate degrees in all disciplines. One factor that differentiates four-year colleges from community colleges is that more faculty at four-year colleges have terminal degrees, but this factor may not be adequate to differentiate, as SACS accreditation criteria seem to shift with the political winds. Another argument is that four-year college faculty keep abreast of research by engaging in it, making them much more qualified to teach cutting-edge material, not to mention that subjecting faculty members’ ideas to blind review by peers is the best way to prevent them from lapsing into sophistic reasoning. Faculty need to get engaged politically and work with administrators to establish realistic, achievable research standards and realistic, achievable requirements for external funding that are appropriate to meet the dual threats of locally-funded community colleges and declines in state funding.

Along with the privilege of shared governance, of course, comes responsibility. In order to show administrators and legislators that faculty can handle shared governance responsibly, faculty need to police their own ranks. When faculty behave unethically or unprofessionally, we as faculty need to identify and counsel them, and if necessary, egregious or repeat offenders need to be shown the door. We need to be careful in judging faculty and administrators who make tough decisions as we are drawing conclusions from research data.

Faculty collectively comprise an awesome array of intelligence, talent, resourcefulness, expertise, experience, and wisdom. Faculty could design a bridge or a space station, develop an assessment instrument or a teaching method, devise a substance-abuse treatment program, run a corporation, develop a blueprint for a government, isolate a virus (biological or computational), or supply the expertise to feed a population. It is hard to imagine a group of people anywhere who are more qualified to engage in shared governance. Moreover, faculty have an important perspective, due to working daily on the front lines with students, so ignoring faculty input is inconsistent with sound management practice. Sound practice in shared governance is captured in the acronym POP, “public owns project,” and not DAD, “decide, announce, defend” (Walesh, 1999).

TACT is the only faculty organization that can lead the fight against locally-funded community colleges offering B.A. degrees, as we are the only faculty organization that is dedicated uniquely to the interests of state-funded universities, unhampered by commitments to community colleges or private universities. Help TACT stop the decline in state funding, maintain the integrity of B.A. degrees, and secure a shared governance law in Texas, by forwarding this e-mail, joining or renewing membership, and recruiting. Our futures are at stake.

Reference Walesh, S.G. 1999. Dad is out, pop is in. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 35:535-544.

TACT President Jim Puckett and TCFS President Claudia Stuart flank TACT's 2003 Legislator of the Year Senator Florence Shapiro

TACT President Jim Puckett and Past President Larry King get a laugh over the "big stick" mini-gavel, now a TACT tradition

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