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Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education

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Do higher education institutions have what it takes to reform effectively from within? Locus of Authority argues that every issue facing today's colleges and universities, from stagnant degree completion rates to worrisome cost increases, is exacerbated by a century-old system of governance that desperately requires change. While prior studies have focused on boards of tru Do higher education institutions have what it takes to reform effectively from within? Locus of Authority argues that every issue facing today's colleges and universities, from stagnant degree completion rates to worrisome cost increases, is exacerbated by a century-old system of governance that desperately requires change. While prior studies have focused on boards of trustees and presidents, few have looked at the place of faculty within the governance system. Bowen and Tobin explore whether departments remain the best ways through which to organize decision making and if the concepts of academic freedom and shared governance need to be sharpened and redefined. Using case studies of four very different institutions, the authors demonstrate that college and university governance has capably adjusted to the necessities of the moment and governance norms and policies should be assessed in the context of historical events. They also demonstrate that successful reform depends on the artful consideration of technological, financial, and cultural developments. Locus of Authority shows that the consequences of not addressing college and university governance are more than the nation can afford.


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Do higher education institutions have what it takes to reform effectively from within? Locus of Authority argues that every issue facing today's colleges and universities, from stagnant degree completion rates to worrisome cost increases, is exacerbated by a century-old system of governance that desperately requires change. While prior studies have focused on boards of tru Do higher education institutions have what it takes to reform effectively from within? Locus of Authority argues that every issue facing today's colleges and universities, from stagnant degree completion rates to worrisome cost increases, is exacerbated by a century-old system of governance that desperately requires change. While prior studies have focused on boards of trustees and presidents, few have looked at the place of faculty within the governance system. Bowen and Tobin explore whether departments remain the best ways through which to organize decision making and if the concepts of academic freedom and shared governance need to be sharpened and redefined. Using case studies of four very different institutions, the authors demonstrate that college and university governance has capably adjusted to the necessities of the moment and governance norms and policies should be assessed in the context of historical events. They also demonstrate that successful reform depends on the artful consideration of technological, financial, and cultural developments. Locus of Authority shows that the consequences of not addressing college and university governance are more than the nation can afford.

30 review for Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nils

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Great book about the historical evolution and contemporary workings of shared governance models in American higher ed, with particular focus on Princeton and Berkeley as models, and somewhat less attention on CUNY and Macallester colleges. At the heart of his story is a managerial paradox: as a university management succeeds in improving the quality of its faculty, this faculty inevitably demands that the management delegate (or at least "share") managerial authority with them; effective managem Great book about the historical evolution and contemporary workings of shared governance models in American higher ed, with particular focus on Princeton and Berkeley as models, and somewhat less attention on CUNY and Macallester colleges. At the heart of his story is a managerial paradox: as a university management succeeds in improving the quality of its faculty, this faculty inevitably demands that the management delegate (or at least "share") managerial authority with them; effective management by the administration, in short, leads inevitably to the fraying of that administration's authority. While this is Bowen's certainly feels that many great universities (and Berkeley particularly) have an excess of 'sharing' of governance with the faculty, with the result that the faculty run the institution in their own exclusive interest, at the expense of other stakeholders, notably undergraduate education. This is an historical artifact, however, of the rise of Big Science funding during the Cold War, which allowed some faculty particularly in the natural sciences to focus more and more exclusively on research, and to push the incentive structure toward an increasingly exclusive focus on research distinction. Because this took place during a particularly egalitarian moment (a point Bowen does not sufficiently emphasize) the reduced teaching loads that scientists were able to demand as the money flowed in were eventually extended over to the social sciences and humanities, with the 2/2 teaching load become normative at R1 universities. The result has been that increasingly the teaching at high-prestige universities is done not be the distinguished senior faculty, but by graduate students and flex-contract lecturers who are replacing faculties whose teaching has been bought out. In the case study of Berkeley, Bowen endorses Clark Kerr's distinction between "Berkeley One" (focused on highly prestigious research) and "Berkeley Two" (with its antinomian and countercultural elements) and the relationship between the two, namely that as "Berkeley One" developed, it distanced the faculty from the growing hoi polloi of the student body, generating the alienation and opposition which Kerr (befitting his unrepentent liberalism) sees as the psycho-social foundation of "Berkeley Two." To say that "Berkeley is run for the faculty" is thus entirely true, provided that we specify that "the faculty" is not the people delivering "product" to students, but is in fact the tenured senior research faculty. Bowen advocated that R1 universities can keep their research-focused characters while improving the quality of their teaching by hiring more "professional teaching staff" who would be analogous to the "professional research staff" that pervade the campuses. He doesn't ask whether or how this would further the bifurcation of the faculty, a common objection to the extension of the "lecturers with security of employment" model. (One common objection to formalizing the LSOE model is that many research faculty claim that they don't know how to "objectively evaluate" the quality of teaching in the way that they do the quality of research for mainline faculty; one can't help but wonder whether the deep fear is not that such evaluation is impossible, but rather that once such standards were developed and applied to LSOEs, why wouldn't they also be applied to the mainline faculty?) In fact, the formalization and extension of LSOEs would merely institutionalize and regularize what is already the de facto emergent model on many campuses, while providing greater dignity and security for the lecturers who do this work. In the end, furthermore, the highest-prestige and power would remain with the senior faculty who BOTH teach brilliantly AND are productive researchers. Also very interesting is his account of the largely successful efforts of faculties to block the adoption of scale-improving classroom technologies which they fear will eventually lead to labor displacement. Indeed, faculty as governors actively reject that "efficiency" should be a criterion at all in evaluating the faculty's classroom performance, preferring an entirely metric-free, mission-driven definition of quality. In one of the most amusing passages, he describes how at one time the Berkeley Center for Online Education explicitly listed "cost-savings" as an "anti-goal." Bowen uses such examples to argue (obliquely) that too much shared governance makes it very difficult to make rational managerial decisions about the good of the institution as a whole. In the end, Bowen makes clear, "shared governance" has become a central vehicle for ensuring that the faculty do not have to take teaching as seriously as research, or in fact really at all seriously.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    If you're looking for a thoughtful, insightful overview and analysis of the history of faculty governance in American higher education and the strengths and weaknesses of today's usual practices, this is it. Bowen and Tobin explain why Europe's traditions of faculty governance did not emerge in America (because America's colleges began religious, small, in a culture without a heritage of guilds), help us appreciate the ebbs and tides of administrative/faculty power since (faculty authority has g If you're looking for a thoughtful, insightful overview and analysis of the history of faculty governance in American higher education and the strengths and weaknesses of today's usual practices, this is it. Bowen and Tobin explain why Europe's traditions of faculty governance did not emerge in America (because America's colleges began religious, small, in a culture without a heritage of guilds), help us appreciate the ebbs and tides of administrative/faculty power since (faculty authority has grown when demand for college degrees -- and therefore faculty -- has spiked, and faded in inverse eras), and critique faculty governance traditions (and pride) that risk leaving schools adapting too slowly (like today). They end with case studies of four different institutions that inform the entire book. Overall, while the book offers enough opinions to generate plenty of argument, it is marked by the insight, candor, common sense and historical knowledge typical of Bowen-Tobin collaborations--and on a topic sorely in need of discussion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Interesting really only if you work at a University, or otherwise care deeply about governance. This is both timely given the current tumult in many Universities, and dated given how rapidly the key issues evolve. It misses the key issues around the power elite, and the impact of those in the Tier of Impunity, who can run things into the ground (or completely mishandle scandal) with no real consequence.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    378.10109 B7864 2015

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