10th BOT Speech
27 January 2015
Welcome, new and continuing Board members. This cannot be an easy time to be a Board member for Washtenaw. I know that for each of you, the college is an important resource for our community, as you would not otherwise be devoting so much of your time and energy to our school. Even when our perspectives differ, please know that faculty do realize your commitment.
It continues to mean a great deal to the faculty that we have this spot on your agenda. Representing the voice and pulse of the faculty at your monthly meetings is a serious responsibility. While I realize some members of your board may not believe this, I always search for something I can say thank you for, or give praise to. I don’t think of my time on your agenda as a place to rant or criticize. I heard from one of my members this week that she hoped I would find something positive to say, as she is having the best years of her career right now. I wish I heard that from all of my members, as these are not easy times to be a leader in the WCCEA either.
I want to thank Chris Mihaly, Dean Blair and the committee, for their work with the recent hiring process that resulted in the hiring of the 3 internal Dean candidates. Chris, who led the committee, did an exemplary job, and I feel confident that the 3 permanent deans hired will all be good additions to the school.
At a meeting last fall, a member of the administration surprised me by saying that he thought our greatest problems revolve around the issues of shared governance. This surprised me largely because, that is what I think too! I’ve been studying the issue of shared governance in higher education, as we are not alone in perceiving an enormous shift in operational tone. Prior to Dr. Bellanca’s arrival, as I’ve said on multiple occasions, faculty were included in conversations about the future of the college – we had a voice, and a seat at the table.
In a recent Chronicle article, “Exactly What Is ‘Shared Governance,” Gary Olson ends his piece with these words: “The key to genuine shared governance is broad and unending communication. When various groups of people are kept in the loop and understand what developments are occurring within the university, and when they are invited to participate as true partners, the institution prospers. That, after all, is our common goal.”
In your communications with the current administration, I urge you to ask them to aim for such “broad and unending communication.” We all need the climate here to improve – I’d ask that each person part of the situation do whatever is in their power to help make things better. In closing, I’ve long wanted to share with you a saying from the philosopher, Confucius, who had much to say about leadership. In one of the analects, Duke Ai asked: “What should I do to win the hearts of the people?” Confucius replied: “Raise the straight and set them above the crooked, and you will win the hearts of the people. If you raise the crooked and set them above the straight, the people will deny you their support.”