Indiana University Bloomington

Bloomington Faculty Council candidates aim to revive interest in faculty governance

  • May 9, 2014

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By MJ Slaby

As the academic year comes to a close, faculty at Indiana University are voting for who will represent them on the Bloomington Faculty Council next year.

One group of faculty is campaigning with a plan to change the council, stressing a proactive approach instead of a reactive one and having the university’s academic mission at the forefront.

“I’m encouraged by this resurgence to take responsibility and participate in governance,” said Alex Tanford, who is running as part of the group’s 10-member slate for the council. 

The election -- voting ends on Tuesday -- comes as the faculty council is forming a committee to consider parts of the campus strategic plan that could restructure faculty governance overall. There are roughly 50 elected members of the faculty council.

It’s easy for faculty members to dedicate all their time to teaching and research and not be involved in governance, Tanford said. But he said that’s a mistake because faculty help ensure an academic model comes before the business model for the university.

Other members of the slate agree.

They, along with like-minded faculty, have been meeting since the fall and say there has been a loss of authority for the faculty council.

The slate distributed its platform to colleagues and stressed various ways the faculty needs to be more involved, from investments in curricular technology to consultation about institutional matters such as department mergers and committee appointments.

“It’s not about resisting change,” said Jon Simons, also running on the slate. Instead, he said, it’s about avoiding top-down decisions when the faculty should have input. That only creates skepticism among faculty about how much authority the council has, the slate members said.

He said the group represents a broader sentiment, and if elected, hopes to draw in people who are skeptical and encourage them to have a stake in issues.

It’s not unusual for a slate of candidates to run for the faculty council, said Herb Terry, the current faculty council president. He said for many years, the American Association of University Professors had a slate that promoted the association’s values.

While the slate could be seen as a criticism of the current faculty council, Terry said he welcomes the engagement. Regardless of who wins, he said, the council needs people who care and are active, because engagement in general faculty governance has decreased from 20 or so years ago. 

He said he thinks it’s a reflection of merit reviews that value service to the department before service to the university, as well as faculty staying less time at universities.

IU administrations have had various responses to faculty governance as well, Tanford said. The more recent ones have taken a middle ground, appointing faculty to committees for input, but having the administration choose those appointments instead of the faculty, he said.

Overall, the academic focus of the university should come before the corporate one, even with recent financial pressures on higher education, the slate members said.

“We see education as a public good, not a private good,” Simons said.