ERIC Identifier: ED284520
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Floyd, Carol E.
Source: Association for the Study
of Higher Education.| ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
Faculty Participation in Decision Making. ERIC Digest.
Faculty participation in institutional decision making is accepted as
intrinsically good and as having positive effects on institutional functioning,
but it is reflected in varying degrees in actual practice. Neither faculty nor
administrators have been very satisfied with actual patterns of participation or
the effectiveness of that participation. Faculty seek to protect and to
reinvigorate historical mechanisms like academic senates and the
well-established areas of curriculum and faculty tenure and promotion. They also
seek mechanisms and approaches for establishing a significant role in areas
where little participation historically has occurred. Sympathetic to faculty
frustrations about participation, administrators seek ways to more fully
integrate consultation with faculty into decision-making processes. Faculty and
administrators are frustrated by the paucity of intrinsic and extrinsic
satisfactions of faculty participation and seek ways to increase the rewards of
that participation. Perceiving that many significant decisions are being made
above the campus level, faculty now increasingly are concerned about mechanisms
for participation at the system level in multicampus systems and at the state
WHAT IS THE RATIONALE FOR FACULTY PARTICIPATION?
The rationale for extensive faculty participation in institutional decision
making rests on reasons for employees' participation in any orgnization and on
reasons specific to the faculty role in higher education, the former contained
in the sizeable literature on generic organzation theory and the latter in the
more sparse higher education literature. Participation in institutional decision
making is associated with increased employee satisfaction and performance in a
wide variety of organizations. Employees' satisfaction and the quality of work
life are now also increasingly viewed as valued outcomes in their own right.
Faculty expertise on the subjects on which decisions are to be made is perhaps
the most fundamental factor supporting faculty participation in institutional
decision making. But faculty also tend to accord legitimacy to and fully
cooperate in the implementaton of only those policies that faculty have helped
formulate because they believe faculty have a right to participate. Although
participatory leadership models require a number of preconditions, these
preconditions are met in higher education environments more frequently than in
other organizational settings.
HOW DO ACADEMIC SENATES SERVE IN CAMPUSWIDE DECISION MAKING?
Faculty senates and faculty senate committees continue to be useful
mechanisms for faculty participation at many research universities, at other
universities, and at elite liberal arts colleges with regard to core academic
areas like curriculum and faculty tenure and promotion, but they are not
necessarily as influential at other types of higher education institutions.
Senates are more representative of a cross-section of faculty in the 1980s than
they were in the 1960s, the result of increased use of elected representatives
and more democratic selecting procedures for committees. Faculty are less
comfortable, however, with the involvement of nonfaculty constituencies in the
revised senate structures established in the late 1960s and early 1970s and
continue to seek means to minimize the influence of those constituencies.
Collective bargaining has not significantly affected the functioning of
coexisting senates in core academic areas on most campuses, but a number of
factors are likely to lead to unstable senate/union relations in the future.
WHAT ARE THE NEW CHALLENGES TO FACULTY PARTICIPATION?
Faculty historically have the broadest role and greatest influence on matters
of curriculum and faculty personnel (especially tenure and promotion). The
literature suggests, however, that these patterns may be difficult to maintain
unless faculty are willing to address issues of general education, staffing
flexibility, and some aspects of faculty conduct from a broader perspective. The
resolution of these issues is central to faculty credibility and institutional
Within the past 15 years, faculty participation has also become relatively
well accepted in institutional planning and in the selection and evaluation of
administrators at many institutions. Faculty participation is a significant
element in the process by which presidents are selected and a normative factor
against which presidential candidates are evaluated. Faculty ambivalence about
integrating financial with academic factors, which has tended to restrict
faculty participation and influence in some stages of planning, has also begun
to recede. Healthy debates about the best mechanisms for integrating faculty
participation into strategic planning suggest good prospects for balance between
administrative leadership and broad participation as such approaches are
Although faculty involvement in budgeting and (in adverse circumstances) in
retrenchment has historically been limited by both administrative resistance and
faculty ambivalence, groundwork is being laid on many campuses for greater and
more effective faculty participation. Faculty have begun to take steps, in
conjunction with administrators, to gain a better understanding of the technical
bases and political dynamics of the budgetary process, thus reducing an earlier
handicap. Boards of trustees and university administrators are also becoming
more sophisticated about the importance of process considerations in handling
retrenchment and the greater acceptability of retrenchment measures if faculty
are consulted about procedures and implementation.
WHAT STEPS CAN ADMINISTRATORS TAKE?
Administrators increasingly see themselves as managers of an institutional
decision process and focus their energies on four crucial elements:
strengthening the collegial foundations of decision making, shaping the
consultative framework, increasing the availability of information, and
facilitating group deliberation.
The articulation of a set of shared values and goals is central to
strengthening the collegial foundations of decision making in higher education.
In 1984 and 1985, a number of national blue ribbon commissions helped focus
campus attention on the need to clarify the purposes of the undergraduate
curriculum, with special emphasis on general education. Further, some scholars
have suggested that Theory Z and other Japanese management approaches can help
focus attention on a collegially oriented administrative style, while others
have raised issues about some of the negative implications of Theory Z on the
The higher education literature of the last 10 years reflects a growing
consensus about the characteristics of and an adequate framework for
administrative consultation with faculty. A set of understandings havs evolved
about where very broad consultation is useful and where the extent of
consultation is appropriately more limited. Agreement has also been reached that
every effort should be made to maintain process and procedure, even in crises.
Various approaches and means for administrators to make information relevant
to campus-generated decisions more available to faculty consultative groups have
been identified in the higher education literature. A national resource center
for faculty participation in institutional decision making has been identified
as a possible mechanism for providing a base of knowledge about best
Faculty and administrators can call upon a sizable literature on generic
organization theory to gain useful insights to improve group deliberations. That
literature illuminates various aspects of group decision making, including
task-oriented leadership and group maintenance leadership, patterns of sharing
group leadership, obstacles to rational evaluation of alternative decisions, and
suggestions for improving group decision making.
WHAT STEPS CAN INCREASE FACULTY SATISFACTION IN CAMPUSWIDE DECISION MAKING?
The higher education literature contains a number of suggestions as to how
institutions might incresae the intrinsic satisfactions of and extrinsic rewards
for institutional participation. Suggestions for increasing intrinsic
satisfactions include providing faculty participants a better understanding of
the dynamics of the consultative process and setting terms of committee service
to correspond with the beginning and ending of major projects. Coordinated
efforts of administrators and faculty are necessary to increase the extrinsic
rewards for constructive institutional participation, thus reversing the pattern
of very little weight given by most institutional personnel committees to
institutional or public service, a pattern most accentuated in research
WHAT ARE POSSIBLE ALTERNATE MECHANISMS AT SYSTEM AND STATE VELS?
Formal faculty participation at the system and state levels can take the form
of direct membership on the board itself, a formal systemwide senate or
statewide committee, or participation in ad hoc and standing technical
committees. The mechanisms of a systemwide senate in multicampus systems or a
statewide coordinating board, have been of the strongest interest both in theory
and in practice.
This digest was derived from ED 267 694.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Austin, Ann E., and Zelda F. Gamson. ACADEMIC WORKPLACE: NEW DEMANDS,
HEIGHTENED TENSIONS. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Research Report No. 10.
Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education, 1983.
Berdahl, Robert O., and Samuel K. Gove. "Governing Higher Education: Faculty
Roles on State Boards." ACADEME 68 (1982): 21-24.
Millett, John C. NEW STRUCTURES OF CAMPUS POWER: SUCCESS AND FAILURES OF
EMERGING FORMS OF INSTITUTIONAL GOVERNANCE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1978.
Mortimer, Kenneth P., and T.R. McConnell. SHARING AUTHORITY EFFECTIVELY. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1978.
Powers, David R., and Mary F. Powers. MAKING PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT WORK.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1983.
Spitzberg, Irving J., Jr. "Governing the Futures of Higher Education: Report
of the General Secretary." ACADEME 70 (1984): 13a-20a.
Vroom, Victor H. "Leaders and Leadership in Academe." REVIEW OF HIGHER
EDUCATION 6 (1983): 367-386.
Yukl, Gary A. LEADERSHIP IN ORGANIZATIONS. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: