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Good and Bad News in Latest AAUP Report on Shared Governance

On October 14, the AAUP released its third report on data collected from this year’s Shared Governance Survey as part of a special issue of Academe dedicated to governance. This report focuses on responses to questions about the composition of senates and similar faculty governance bodies and the conduct of presidential searches, as well as findings on the demographic composition and professional characteristics of senate leaders as a group.

Key Findings:

  • Faculty senate chairs are overwhelmingly full-time faculty members (99.1 percent full-time) at the higher ranks and have tenure (90.7 percent) if at a tenure-granting institution. White faculty members were found to be overrepresented at four year institutions compared with the overall racial and ethnic composition of full-time faculty members. Asian faculty were found to be particularly underrepresented (3.2 percent of senate chairs vs.11.6 percent of full-time faculty).
  • As contingent faculty rates increase, nearly a quarter of four-year institutions with a senate or council still do not allow all full-time faculty members on contingent appointments to vote in senate or council elections. At over 30 percent of four-year institutions, the right to serve on the senate or council is not extended to all full-time contingent faculty.
  • The percentage of institutions that allow for full governance participation of all part-time faculty members has declined by some 5 percentage points since 2001. Faculty participation in presidential searches has also declined, from 94 percent to 88 percent of institutions, a finding that underscores ongoing concerns about the conduct of such searches.
  • At 66.5 percent of all four-year institutions (both with and without tenure systems), part-time faculty members cannot vote, and at 72.2 percent they cannot serve on senates or councils. Some groups of part-time faculty members can vote at 19.2 percent of institutions, and some can serve at 17.3 percent of institutions; all part-time faculty members are allowed to vote at only 14.4 percent of institutions and to serve at 10.5 percent.
  • In the current survey, 88.0 percent of institutions reported that faculty representatives served as members of the most recent presidential search committee, and 54.7 percent of institutions reported that the most recent presidential search was open. A minority of institutions (40.1 percent) reported the use of confidentiality agreements, with 59.9 percent responding that no confidentiality agreement had been used or that the respondent did not know whether one had been used.

For more than a century, the AAUP has conducted or sponsored national shared governance surveys. Each of these surveys has provided a snapshot of the state of shared governance at the time it was conducted, and together they provide vital information about the historical development of academic governance in the United States over the past one hundred years. This report compares results by various institutional types to the AAUP’s established governance policy standards. The report also compares findings to those of previous governance surveys. The AAUP’s Department of Research sent the questionnaire to senate chairs and other similarly positioned faculty governance leaders at a stratified random sample of 585 four-year institutions. The response rate was 68 percent.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 14, 2021