College and University Governance: Spartanburg Community College (South Carolina)

Published December 2023.

This is the report of an investigating committee concerning the dissolution of the faculty senate at Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina. In April 2023, the SCC administration unilaterally abolished the faculty senate, an action it admitted taking to prevent the senate from voting that day to oppose the administration’s imposition of a policy requiring faculty members to be present on campus for almost forty hours each week.

The administration’s message announcing the dissolution declared that “there is no shared governance” at the institution outside of curricular and instructional matters. All other institutional decision-making, it said, rests solely with the president and governing board. The administration replaced the senate with an academic council of its own devising, which included thirteen administrators among its thirty-three members and whose bylaws restricted its deliberations to academic policy.

The AAUP investigating committee concluded that the SCC administration’s actions contravened widely accepted governance standards, chief among these the requirement articulated in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities that the agencies for faculty governance should be designed and implemented by joint action of the faculty, administration, and governing board. Shared governance, the report also notes, requires the participation of the faculty in all important institutional decisions, not just those related to academic matters, with its authority distributed according to its responsibility for a given area.

The report also finds that the dissolution of the senate was a “preemptive effort to silence that body, its members, and its constituents and keep them from expressing their views on a specific institutional policy” and thus “a direct attack on academic freedom.” The report notes evidence of administrative surveillance of faculty communication and activities, including a request from the administration that campus police use security cameras to monitor the former faculty senate president who had contacted the AAUP. Nearly all the faculty members who spoke with the committee insisted on anonymous, off-campus interviews for fear of administrative retaliation, supporting the committee’s conclusion that the campus environment was “inimical to academic freedom.”