Faculty talk change in governance

In the past several weeks, college faculty members have gathered twice to discuss possible modifications of the campus governance system, which is currently based around the College Senate.

Dennis Showers, an education professor and chair of the College Senate, said that the meetings were arranged to respond to the concerns of some that the College Senate may no longer provide an effective governance structure.

"The role of the College Senate has become really restricted," Showers said. "It's difficult to carry out deliberation in a senate-like setting … the College Senate doesn't move fast."Campus governance refers to the methods through which the views of faculty members are given due consideration when policies that directly affect them are debated at a college-wide level.

"In higher education, there is a long tradition that faculty has a right to participate in conversations which affect things that faculty care about," Showers said.

According to Showers, faculty created the model on which the present-day College Senate is from about 30 years ago. The Senate consists of representatives from the administration, faculty and student body. Recently, some faculty members have expressed interest in adopting another model that would be for faculty representatives exclusively.

Showers said he was unsure of how widespread such sentiment is.Showers said that approximately 10 faculty members attended an initial meeting to explore the topic, but that increased attendance at the second meeting, along with informal correspondences with faculty, have led him to believe that there is enough interest to give the topic serious consideration.

"I haven't heard anyone say anything remotely like 'it's a pain to deal with the students,'" Showers said. "This is all being looked at because we want to better serve the college. I'm going to take a straw vote of the faculty this week to see if this conversation is something we should consider moving forward with."

A compromise between leaving the College Senate exactly as is and moving completely to a faculty-only governing body might involve adding additional responsibilities to the College Senate such as managing communication and collaboration on campus, Showers said.

Several colleges and universities throughout the SUNY system utilize campus governance bodies made up exclusively of faculty members, while others include students and/or administrators in their governance as Geneseo does.

The College Senate meets about once a month and votes to make recommendations to President Christopher Dahl. Topics of discussion often revolve around issues related to the academic curriculum, faculty affairs and college policy.According to Showers, no changes have officially been suggested yet; all discussions are preliminary. Any change to campus governance would require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of Geneseo faculty.