Introduction to "Indicators of Sound Governance"

By Professor Keetjie Ramo

For years, faculty leaders have been asking the Committee on College and University Governance for a checklist to use to assess the state of governance on their campuses. Existing instruments had many drawbacks. For example, some measured the faculty's satisfaction with governance, while skirting the issue of comportment with standards. Some seemed to measure governance against a faculty wish list that may or may not have included sharing governance with administrators and governing boards. Others disproportionately emphasized some governance issues over others.

The compendium I completed in 1994 ("Assessing Faculty's Role in Shared Governance") arose from the need for a set of questions that faculty members could use to measure their own situations against AAUP standards. Still, the compendium's length and detail discouraged its use by, for example, senate officers. Therefore, the Committee on College and University Governance again called for a checklist. Some suggested that the questions raised in the compendium be winnowed and made into a questionnaire. I volunteered to head up the task.

The Committee looked at a number of versions of the document before it developed its present form. While not yet completed, the instrument seems to address the necessary if not sufficient conditions that exist when governance is sound. Because of this, just filling out the instrument can inform respondents where gaps and violations of standards exist on their campuses.

As you know, the instrument has proved to be a good tool for raising faculty members' consciousness about sound governance. This has held true on the dozen or so campuses where committee members ran a pilot test. Those test runs brought forth a number of good suggestions for further revisions. In addition, AAUP members consistently ask how their institutions measure up, score-wise.

I have not yet fine-tuned the questionnaire to address the suggestions and the need for an accurate scale of scores. I expect to do so in the coming academic year.  Nonetheless, I encourage faculty members to use the present iteration.  Though it doesn't yet yield a meaningful score, users have found it very useful.

I need to emphasize that using the instrument as a satisfaction survey will render the results meaningless. The questions are intended to reflect observable conditions at colleges and universities. It is not designed to measure the faculty's opinion of or satisfaction with those conditions. For that reason, the ratings should come from those faculty members who have had fairly intensive experience in governance. This usually means faculty leadership, senate experience, and regular formal contacts with academic officers the governing board. I recommend that a small group of faculty members with such experience fill out the questionnaire by consensus to improve reliability.

Used by knowledgeable faculty leaders, the ratings give a pretty fair picture of where governance needs shoring up. Alternatively, if interested faculty leaders don't have the requisite experience in governance, or if much of the governance process is hidden from the faculty, the faculty leadership may want to use the instrument to guide a close investigation of how their governance structures actually work.

Aside from giving an approximation of the state of governance on each campus, the questionnaire is a good tool to use in workshops for educating faculty members, administrators, and board members about national standards. Where the instrument is completed in the workshop setting by individuals or small groups, the scores are somewhat beside the point. What has proved significant in a number of workshops is that participants often are amazed at how few of the principles in the 1966 Statement are actually followed by their institutions. For some participants it is their first look at a summary of conditions for sound governance.