Events that have occurred in the past few months have caused the Faculty Senate and many other members of the UH-Clear Lake community concern about the effectiveness of the shared governance system at UH- Clear Lake.
The Faculty Senate proposed the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance charged with evaluating and improving the current shared governance process.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance held its first hearing to allow faculty, staff and students to voice comments and/or concerns regarding the shared governance process Jan. 26.
The committee is comprised of nine members. Dale Cloninger, professor of finance and economics and president elect of the Faculty Senate, chairs the committee. Terry Dupler, associate professor of Fitness and Human Performance, faculty chair of Facilities and Resources Committee and University Planning Committee representative; Grady Perdue, professor of finance and representative of Educational Policies and Courses Committee; Ron Mills, professor of biology and chemistry and outgoing president of the Faculty Senate; and Paul Wagner, professor of philosophy and educational foundations and member of the University Life Committee represent the other four faculty and serve each of the four schools whom are appointed by FSEC.
Steve Sutton, dean of students and representative of Professional and Administrative Association; Michelle Dotter, vice president administration and finance; Lynn Hughes, Support Staff Association representative; and Josephine Tittsworth, Student Government Association representative comprise the other four members of the committee and were appointed by President Wiliam Staples.
The first item that was addressed at the hearing was the use of the term "shared governance." Cloninger suggests that it is a misnomer and might better be called something like a "participatory advisory system," because the committees that make up shared governance are only responsible for looking at issues and making recommendations.
Cloninger also cleared up the recent misunderstanding that there has been talk of doing away with shared governance or the students' voice at UH-Clear Lake. Terry Dupler reiterated that no matter what changes are made to the shared governance process the students are in no danger of losing their voice.
"There is in no talk of diminishing students' voices from whatever committees remain after this restructuring takes place," Dupler said.
Student Life Director David Rachita left the meeting with the perception that everyone involved is open to discussion about ways to make shared governance more productive and more positive, and was happy that no decisions have been made that would negatively affect SGA.
"My reaction upon leaving the meeting was positive," Rachita said. "It appears that no decisions have been made yet and everyone appears to be open to suggestions about how we might make shared governance more effective."
Sutton agrees that the meeting had a positive tone.
"I am encouraged that the people that have been most involved with shared governance showed up for the hearing," Sutton said. "And I am pleased to see that everyone seems to recognize the value of SGA. Although it has its vulnerabilities, this will provide a good opportunity to educate everyone about the SGA at UH-Clear Lake."
It appeared that everyone in attendance agrees that lack of communication or mis-communication is the most significant underlying problem with the shared governance system.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance is considering ways to restructure the shared governance system by way of dissolving or combining committees, making sure that all committee meetings have a clearly stated agenda, finding better and more convenient venues for the distribution of information regarding policies, committee meetings, etc., and improving the cost effectiveness of the entire shared governance system.
One of the strategies the Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance is using to achieve these goals is asking each member of the committee to gather information and feedback from their constituent groups and provide systematic reports to Cloninger who in turn, will report to the FSEC.
In response to this request, the SGA formed its own committee, the Student Shared Governance Re-Evaluation Committee. The SSGRC has been working diligently over the past few weeks to accomplish what the Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance has asked of them.
During March 26-29 the SSGRC, chaired by Tittsworth, held nine meetings to develop polling questions for the students, faculty and focus groups. Each student and faculty poll had five different qualitative questions. The polls were available to the student population from March 30 to April 9. Room monitors were available to answer questions on shared governance and the poll questions on 14 separate occasions. E-mail, WebCT, the UH-Clear Lake Web site and hard copies were used to poll students and faculty. All polls and e-mails were kept anonymous or assigned a reference number for the purposes of confidentiality.
SSGRC's report, based on the recent poll and the comments made by faculty and students, suggest that more adequate advertising might help improve students' knowledge of shared governance.
In conclusion, SSGRC's report states "the current shared governance system should continue with student participation and voting rights. In order to achieve a balance of student participation and to achieve effective implementation of policy, communication is of utmost importance."
Tittsworth feels positive about the direction the proceedings are going, but points out that the process is moving slowly and it may be too early to tell.
"None of the special interest issues have been brought up that could evoke mixed feelings or emotions," Tittsworth said. "However, as chaotic as it has been the past few weeks, I'm confident that in the end we will have a system that makes sense."
The most recent events that led to the formation of both the Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance and, therefore, the SSGRC dates back to the questions that were raised in February, when the FRC voted not to recommend a $15 student services fee increase that was contrary to the SGA recommendation.
One of the reasons FRC decided to oppose the vote is that they were concerned that the SGA did not represent the entire student body, leaving many students with the impression that the FRC did not value student opinion or the SGA.
Because SGA is structured, with 1,600 representatives made up of campus organization members, faculty members on FRC felt that the SGA did not adequately illicit responses from a majority of UHCL's 7,900 plus students.
SGA representatives, as well as the SLC, were relieved when UH-Clear Lake's President Staples overturned FRC's recommendation to reject the $15 fee increase. However, many questions were raised about the effectiveness of shared governance and the role of SGA and its representation of the student body.
David Rachita has had some experience working with student government associations at several other institutions and believes "that having 1,600 people associated with student organizations is a significant number considering that UH-Clear Lake is a commuter campus in which the majority of students work full time and do not have time to get involved." He also regards the SGA at UH-Clear Lake as significantly better than others in which he has been involved.
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