is Wrong with Free and Open Elections?
Statement on Faculty Governance
Prepared by John T. Lehman
of the most obvious and troubling departures from democratic governance of the
University's schools and colleges is that the faculty of over half of the
schools and colleges are not told whether the members they elect to represent
them on their Executive Committee actually are appointed to serve.
From the Executive Summary of Democracy and Authority. Part 2. How Executive Committees Function in the Schools and Colleges of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.
than one year ago, in October 1998, Joseph M. Fenty, a student in the Center for
the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, School of Education, and
Professor Martin Gold, Research Center for Group Dynamics Institute for Social
Research, released the results of a landmark study about faculty governance at
the University of Michigan. Based
on interviews with deans, associate deans, and faculty members of
executive committees from 15 units across the campus, the report provides
an informative and authoritative account of governance practice.
The results highlight and call into question the electoral processes by
which faculty assume they elect their representatives on executive committees.
The findings reinforce the widespread belief often heard expressed among
university faculty that their “representatives” are “selected, not
study was sponsored by the Faculty Senate, through its elected executive body,
the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), and by the
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Chapter of the AAUP.
The full report can be read on the faculty governance website: http://www.umich.edu/~sacua
the present academic year, the elected leaders of Central Faculty Governance
have made repeated overtures to the Provost urging an open and transparently
legitimate election process at unit levels.
The leaders have bolstered their arguments with documentation from peer
institutions within the Big-10 which indicates that the practices of the U-M are
anomalous. Readers can trace the
progress of these efforts from the weekly Minutes of SACUA, published at the
same Faculty Governance site referenced above.
Meetings of particular note include 15 November 1999, 7 February 2000,
and 14 February 2000.
seems to be entrenched opposition to the proposal.
So far, the arguments against releasing the election results range from
expressed concerns about bruising the feelings of the losers to explanations
that sometimes the election results must be tempered with concern for
programmatic balance and diversity. The
most recent argument is that the Senate Assembly has not been in the habit of
announcing the vote counts when it elects its own representatives to SACUA.
In order to put that latter objection to rest, SACUA has proposed that
henceforth not only the names of the top vote-recipients in the SACUA elections
will be made public, but that the vote counts should be public as well.
For SACUA, the practice is inconsequential because the election results
have always been binding. But
as Fenty and Gold learned, that fundamental expectation of democracy cannot be
taken for granted across the campus.
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