These are difficult financial times, and this has escaped no one’s notice. Faculty have been hearing this mantra repeatedly on their campuses, local APSCUF leadership is completely aware of this fact, and so is the leadership at State APSCUF. Every citizen in the Commonwealth should, by now, be cognizant of the difficult budgetary situation that looms in upcoming months.
What to do in these difficult times? Begin by reinforcing shared governance. There is much untapped brain power available to the Office of the Chancellor (OOC) and local administrators among our faculty. The faculty are true stakeholders in the financial health of our institutions, and the challenges ahead should be met not by top-down solutions, but by true consensus building that legitimizes the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
To the credit of the OOC and the Board of Governors, PASSHE has focused on transparency. Shared governance is not possible without it. While we have not been able to receive all of the data we would like, the OOC and local managers have provided data to APSCUF in most instances. This data has allowed both local and state leadership to ask some penetrating questions and to get a clearer view of the assumptions on which budgeting decisions are made.
However, true transparency must transcend raw data. True transparency means that decisions, in their own right, must also be made transparently. To have true conversation means that PASSHE and local leaders must be willing to articulate concerns clearly and thoughtfully, be open to alternatives, and be willing to provide the facts and data necessary to support their decisions. Now is not a time for PASSHE and university leaders to rely solely on their authority (be it contractual or statutory) to justify their actions. Legitimate decisions depend on accuracy, sound data, and reasoned, defensible positions. Given the nature of academia, the faculty and administration should demand no less.
Consensus is key, and shared governance is the most efficacious means of preparation for the road ahead.