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Closing out the semester with shared governance

by Breonnah Colon - Editor-In-Chief
Tue, Dec 4th 2018 11:00 am

With the end of the semester soon approaching, The College at Brockport will experience the signing of a shared governance document. Due to take place on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 12:30 p.m. at the Fireside Lounge in the Seymour College Union, the signing will be carried out by college President Heidi Macpherson along with Brockport Student Government (BSG) President Joshua Mathews and the President of the College Senate Kathy Peterson. The event will serve as the official ceremony for implementing a change in how the college administration, faculty and governing boards interact with the student body.

President Macpherson explained in an email the main purpose of the document is to increase transparency between different entities of authority on campus and students, allowing for students to have a clearer understanding of the changes and ongoings being implemented, how they will be carried out and why. 

“[Shared governance] gives students a clear voice at the College,” Macpherson wrote. “Characteristics [of the system] include Trust, Transparency, Effective Communication and Consultation.”

Mathews agreed with President Macpherson, adding that the system will offer equity between different committees and members, which would foster a greater dialogue for the entire Brockport community. He explained given that decisions made at the college would impact individuals at multiple levels across the college, including students, all parties involved should have a clear understanding and say, a prospect of implementing the system. 

“If a decision is being made or there will be something happening here on the campus, the stakeholders of the college should be in on those decisions,” Mathews said.

Mathews went on to explain that professional faculty make up the majority of workers on campus. For this reason, faculty also have a body of representatives, the College Senate, which, similarly to how BSG works for students, highlights and addresses issues faced by staff on campus. Both BSG and the College senate take the interest of the groups they represent into consideration and bring those interests up to college administration. For many years, the two groups have attempted to work together. However, the distribution of power has had a tendency to favor the needs and wants of the College Senate over BSG. For this reason, shared governance serves as a much needed leverage between the two.

“Any time a decision is made it will impact [students and faculty] and when we form committees, we want to make sure that there are representatives so that we’re not turning a blind eye to something that might affect one stakeholder group.” Mathews said. “In the past, for better or for worse, different stakeholder groups have seen each other as adversaries. In the past four or five years, we have taken the approach that we can work together on issues and create a shared vision, through shared governance, to make sure that the decisions made are really best for everybody.”

While it may not seem exceptionally important, the document will lay the foundation for future administrations, both on the faculty and student level, which participants hope to demonstrate through the public signing, explained Vice President for University Relations Dave Mihalyov.

“[The document will be signed in the Fireside lounge] to show how much we value shared governance and transparency,” Mihalyov wrote in an email. 

The establishment of the document was not carried out without a set purpose, as the document is a part of goal four of the college’s strategic plan, which is to be a great college at which to work, Macpherson explained. With this goal set in place, the college administration worked with BSG and the College Senate to create a way to implement necessary change for the overall benefit of college. According to Mihalyov, before the document was ever created, an ad hoc committee was formed including former Vice President for Administration and Finance, James “Beau” Willis, professor Ken O’Brien and professor Sharon Lubkemann-Allen. Both Lubkemann-Allen and O’Brien served as College Senate President. Over time, President Macpherson manned the committee and included both former and current BSG presidents along with the current student president intern in addition to the provost of the college, the current president of the college senate and University Faculty Senate representatives. These were the individuals who worked to draft the document. With the signing taking place the end of this year, changes will be implemented during the upcoming academic year. 

“The document was written by the committee, and has been or will be approved by College Senate, BSG, and College Council,” Macpherson wrote. “There’s a new plan for how we constitute committees. Beginning next fall, each committee will need to explain how they use shared governance.”

While shared governance at Brockport is still in the beginning stages, the system will serve as a preface and a basis for administration as well as representation across many levels to maintain a balance the college has needed for some time. The document signing may not be attended by many, however, the event is the first step to establishing transparency and allow better communication for the overall campus