Shared Governance Restructuring

The Shared Governance Task Force, composed of faculty, staff, and students from the West Lafayette campus, is currently working on a proposal to restructure Purdue's University Senate. The task force will distribute a brief proposal outlining the rationale and justification for a restructuring by the end of April, hold a listening session, and engage in other activities to solicit feedback and answer questions from all campus constituencies. A detailed proposal will be distributed by early fall 2021. 

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Please note: This FAQ is a work in progress. More questions and answers will be added as we receive them, and as we are able to receive additional clarification about state and university policies and procedures.

  • It is surprising that the Protect Purdue Leadership group is being held up as an exemplar of best practices shared governance. What is the relationship between the Protect Purdue Group and what is being proposed here?
    During the May 5th listening session, we shared a model of shared governance that arose as a consequence of the pandemic. With leaders from CSSAC, MaPSAC, PSG, PGSG, and the University Senate, we worked closely with Provost Akridge from last June through this spring, meeting weekly to discuss questions, share concerns, and provide feedback about potential policies, procedures, and practices. This leadership group was NOT the same as the broader Protect Purdue task force that senior administration formed. This group was comprised of leaders across campus who represented the collective voice of faculty, staff, and students. Given how rapidly things were changing (with the science, with policies here, with pretty much everything), it was important to stay in nearly constant contact with administration. We shared our constituents’ concerns and questions and worries. The Provost had the group review multiple policies and procedures, offer feedback, etc. He also would bounce ideas off everyone as they all worked to navigate the challenges we faced. All members in this group were able to shape the broader Protect Purdue efforts. The group contributed to the ways that promotion and tenure will be modified in light of COVID, the discussions around child care challenges and virtual schooling, remote work guidance, the long service and teaching hours faculty were putting in, the degree of burn out everyone was feeling, how to address compliance concerns. Leaders from the other groups would share concerns that the Senate leadership would include as questions on each of the surveys we did. At first, administration was not on board with our surveys, but generating all the data turned out to be incredibly useful in shaping how we proceeded. So, when we say that the leadership group was a strong and effective model of shared governance, we are talking about this group and not the main protect Purdue COVID response team.

  • How do you respond to concerns that AAUP should have a central role in this discussion?
    The AAUP chapter at Purdue is an independent faculty group with interest in its understanding of what academic freedom and shared governance should look like. It does not engage in collective bargaining on behalf of Purdue’s faculty, and its members are not elected or required to be representative of the faculty at large. However, the AAUP is a national advocacy organization, and the working group is reaching out to the organization for input.

  • The rationale for restructure posted online described a structure in which a faculty council would include tenured/tenure-track faculty and "additional councils comprised of non-tenure track faculty, alumni, and other groups *could* be formed." Our current university senate includes T/TT faculty and clinical/professional faculty serving side-by-side. Would this model reduce the ability of clinical- and professional-track faculty to have a voice in faculty and university matters? At the same time, non-tenure-track faculty don't have any representation in the established governance groups.
    It is true that our current form of shared governance offers no clear representation to lecturers, adjuncts, and other non-ladder faculty members. Allowing these groups representation would be a crucial step forwards towards true community shared governance. Clinical and other professional faculty are currently eligible to be members of the University Senate, and that would not change; however, at the moment there is no requirement for clinical faculty to have a presence on the Senate, and they are a small minority of Senators. This could be an opportunity for clinical and professional faculty to have a more proportional and guaranteed voice as well. Multiple councils will be formed to represent the interests of specific member groups, and representatives from these councils would sit on the main, university-level council to be able to bring forward their constituent concerns to the broader university attention.

  • What is the role that a formal shared governance structure (e.g., a Senate, a Council) at Purdue can assume in the context of decision-making and laws in the state of Indiana?
    Indiana law vests in the Board of Trustees the authority and responsibility for the operation of Purdue University. (IC 21-27-7-4). Thus, any roles or responsibilities for decision-making within a university governance structure must ultimately be traced to a delegation of authority from the Board. This includes delegations to the president and treasurer (and, through them, other members of the administration), as well as to the faculties of the University.
    The Board of Trustees made such a delegation to the faculties in 1964. This delegation was issued subject to certain parameters, including the condition that the responsibilities conferred were to be exercised "subject to the authority of the Board of Trustees and in consultation with the president." The delegation also made clear that it was not irrevocable, such that "[n]othing in [the delegation] shall be construed as restraining the Board of Trustees from taking such action as they determine to be necessary in the discharge of their legal responsibilities."
    In short, in the context of Indiana law, the role that can be assumed by actors in a formal shared governance structure (i.e. the faculty and the administrative offices to which the Board has delegated responsibilities) must ultimately be defined by the Board of Trustees in the exercise of their legal authority, and once the delegation is put it place, the various roles (whether they be advising, recommending or promulgating policies, or developing and implementing plans to achieve University objectives) must be exercised consistent with such delegation from the Board.

    If the debate over the civics exam were to happen under this new governance structure, would the outcome be different? How would these proposed changes amplify the faculty’s voice in educational policymaking?
    There is no way to answer a hypothetical; the laws governing where the ultimate authority for university policy rests in the state of Indiana would not change based on this proposal. This proposed structure would, however, make it possible for more direct and more timely input into major decisions, which certainly holds the potential to improve outcomes for all parties.

    Would this proposal expand the charge of the University Senate beyond its focus on the policies, regulations, and procedures intended to achieve the educational objectives of Purdue University and the general welfare of those involved in these educational processes?
    This is not a proposal to expand the mandate of the University Senate, but rather to reorganize the entire shared governance structure at Purdue. Faculty would retain a council in some form—either as a Senate or a similarly representative group—which would be tasked with overseeing educational and other faculty matters.

    Could you explain more about how accountability would function with shared governance? What power would this entity really hold to ensure that decisions include others?
    This reorganization will only take place if both faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees agree to it; it requires buy-in from the Board of Trustees as well as all the other constituencies, and is not being imposed upon them. Everyone would need to agree on a structure that permits meaningful access to how decisions are made.

    The argument state law prohibits decision-making authority beyond the President and Board of Trustees is inaccurate. The Board has delegated authority through its bylaws to other groups. If it is true that the only group who makes decisions is the Board, then, for example, the Provost could not make decisions.
    It has not been asserted that the Board of Trustees cannot delegate decision-making to other individuals or groups; rather, the power to do so rests with them, and can be extended or rescinded by them.

  • Who are the current members of the task force and how is and will the membership be determined?

    Current Members:
    Deborah Nichols, Shared Governance Task Force Chair, Human Development and Family Studies
    Stacey Baisden, Former MaPSAC Chair, Polytechnic Institute
    Colleen Brady,  Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication
    Angela Dodd, Vice President of Purdue Black Alumni Association
    Sara Mellady, CSSAC Chair, Biological Sciences
    Madelina E. Nuñez, PGSG President, Interdisciplinary Studies
    Brock Turner, CSSAC Vice Chair, Procurement Services

    More members are being added.
    Members are drawn from faculty, staff, and students who have extensive experience with current and past Purdue governance structures. In addition, while perfect representation is probably not feasible, the group wants diversity of units, backgrounds, and opinions in its members.

    Any reorganization needs to address the issue of the broken state of trust between Purdue’s employees and its administration. How will this process build trust?
    The impetus for this project began when a number of faculty and staff members—present and past members of the University Senate—began to communicate with each other regarding their dissatisfaction with the workings of shared governance, and to reach out for the opinions and support of their colleagues. This was a ground-up, as opposed to a top-down idea; it did not originate with the Senate or with the Board of Trustees. The membership of the task force that will form the final proposal is in the process of being established. The process of trust building in shared governance is an essential one, we hope to hear more feedback on this in the June 30 listening session.

  • Who would be included in the campus-wide vote this fall?
    Tenured, tenure-track, clinical and professional faculty; and full-time staff. The Board of Trustees would also need to ratify the proposal.

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