Otis College is committed to maintaining a robust system of Shared Governance.
This webpage brings together many resources on the subject, including:
- What is Shared Governance?
- The 2019-20 Task Force on Shared Governance
- Why is Shared Governance Important?
- External Sources Reviewed
- Internal Sources Reviewed
- Overview, Visual Guide, FAQs, and Statement on Otis's Shared Governance System
- Key Concepts and Helpful Reminders
- Campus Resources on Shared Governance
- A Compelling Example of Shared Governance at Work
What is Shared Governance?
Shared governance is the process by which various constituents contribute to decision-making related to college policy and procedure. When done well, shared governance enhances an institution’s ability to achieve its mission and strategic goals by strengthening the quality of leadership and deeply informing institutional decisions. Effective shared governance also engenders an institutional culture of collective ownership and accountability for the institution’s present and future.
The 2019-20 Task Force on Shared Governance
Following the disruptive situation of Otis’s spring 2019 leadership change, the Board of Trustees Charged by Resolution the Interim President and Interim Provost to form a Task Force to review, clarify, bolster, and make readily visible its robust system of Shared Governance. The Task Force on Shared Governance included individuals representing the three main branches of shared governance and staff, as follows:
- Chair, Faculty Senate—Rachel Roske
- Rising/Admin. Co-Chair, Academic Assembly—Alex Slade
- Senior/Faculty Co-Chair, Academic Assembly—Silas Munro
- Associate Provost for Assessment and Accreditation—Debra Ballard
- Vice President, Human Resources and Development—Karen Hill
- Chair, Board of Trustees—Mei-Lee Ney
- Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer (Co-Chair)—Kim Russo
- Interim President and Chief Executive Officer (Co-Chair)—Randy Lavender
Why is Shared Governance Important?
The Task Force began its work with an examination of the purpose and value of Shared Governance in higher education:
The Task Force reviewed as part of its work several external resources to learn of comparable schools' processes and systems, and of how the literature on shared governance in higher education today can help to clarify and refine Otis's system.
- A recent book discussing many of the complexities of shared governance in higher education:
Shared Governance in Times of Change
- A pdf outlining many of the key concepts and recommendations from the book, above:
How to Make Shared Governance Work
- An article discussing common confusion surrounding the concept of shared governance in higher ed. today:
Exactly What Is Shared Governance?
- An excerpt focused on the role of college Presidents in shared governance:
Excerpt from Susan R. Pierce
- The longstanding and influential Statement from the American Association of University Professors:
The AAUP Statement on Shared Governance
- WASC holds accrediated institutions responsible for numerous decision-making structure and process-related Standards:
WASC Organizational Structures and Decision-Making Processes (see also Otis's reaccrediation review results, below)
Numerous internal resources were also reviewed, and helped the Task Force understand its formation, charge, and how much shared governance currently functions at Otis:
- The Board Resolution seeking a Task Force and Statement on Shared Governance:
Resolution of the Board re: forming a Task Force and Statement
- How the Task Force was formed and what it undertook:
Task Force on Shared Governance makeup and process
- Charge to the Task Force--what it was asked to do:
Task Force Charge
- Current academic governance committees of the Academic Assembly:
2021-22 Academic Assembly Committee makeup and Faculty Posts
- The Faculty Senate--definition, membership, leadership:
Excerpt from the 2021-22 Faculty Handbook
- Excerpted academic governance materials from the Faculty Handbook (all in one, smaller document):
Otis Academic Governance (from the 2021-22 Faculty Handbook)
- Otis's recent reaccreditation review reports included findings about the College's shared governance system:
Otis Reaccreditation Review Results (see also WASC's Standards and Criteria for Review re: shared governance, above)
- A list of regularly convening and ad hoc Conferral Groups providing input and broad perspectives to inform decisions:
Active Conferral Groups, Campus Committees, and Councils
- How the student voice is heard in and contributes to Shared Governance (see also Students' Union, below):
The Student Voice in Otis Shared Governance
- Academic Freedom at Otis:
Excerpt from the 2021-22 Faculty Handbook
- The core values that underlie all work at Otis:
Otis Workplace Values
Overview, Visual Guide, Statement, and FAQs
These reviews, and much thoughtful discussion over the fall and spring of 2019-20, made possible the development of a Visual Guide to key tenets, distinctions to remember, cycles and sequences and the below overview of the system’s working elements, and how they interrelate. This presentation later allowed the creation of a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Finally, a Statement on Shared Governance was formed, recommended to the Board of Trustees, and adopted by Board Resolution on April 8, 2020.
Read the Visual Guide to Shared Governance
Download the Visual Guide to Shared Governance
Key Concepts and Helpful Reminders
The Task Force's work revealed several key distinctions that can help all at Otis avoid conflating things that are fundamentally different. For example, the distinction between a situation (such as the unique and extremely rare one that occured in spring 2019) and a system (such as all that has evolved and grown at Otis over several decades as its system of shared governance):
In addition to identifying and noting several key distinctions, the Task Force codified a driving principle and key tenet of shared governance--regular, ongoing, ad hoc, and standing conferral:
As of spring 2020, many standing and ad hoc Conferral Groups provide input and recommendations to inform institutional decisions.
With sufficient conferral in place to ensure needed expert input on matters requiring attention, the three main branches of shared governance can make properly informed decisions, and communicate clearly about those, and their basis, with the campus community:
In contemplating or recognizing matters or issues calling for or warranting institutional decision-making, Academic Assembly, Institutional Leadership and the Board follow basic cycles and sequences to learn, synthesize information toward possible solutions, make well-informed decisions, and close loops through clear communications:
The Statement on Shared Governance
The Board formally adopted the Statement on Shared Governance by Resolution on April 8, 2020.
Excerpts from the Statement on Shared Governance
Each group or body (faculty, administration, staff, trustees, etc.) within the College community has a defined role and set of responsibilities intended to effectively support the institution’s mission and to ensure its fiscal health and sustainability. Shared governance is achieved when these responsibilities are carried out in a manner consistent with four major tenets:
• mutual respect, which can foster trust;
• recognition that groups’ areas of responsibility and/or authority are clearly defined, yet interrelated;
• clear ongoing and timely communication with each other and with the larger campus community to close loops and share the basis for decisions; and
• making readily visible relevant institutional priorities, policies, and procedures.
The Importance of Clear, Ongoing Communication
The College’s Academic branch (Academic Leaders, Academic Assembly, and Faculty Senate) and Institutional Management branch (Senior Leadership) regularly confer with standing Conferral Groups/Committees (Students’ Union, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Council, etc.) to inform institutional decisions. The President and Senior Leadership regularly confer with the College’s Fiduciary branch (Board of Trustees) for input, and vice versa. The goal of conferral is to synthesize (thoughtful consideration and analysis) input toward sound decisions for the College’s future and direction (consistent with its strategic plan), and clearly communicate with the campus community to ensure both well-informed institutional decision-making and fitting transparency for an aligned, productive community.
With the tenets in place and fitting transparency at work, trust can evolve and propel even better decision-making and alignment within the campus community and with the Board.
Campus Resources on Shared Governance
See also the Dashboard for more related resources (login required)
Frequently Asked Questions
- The 2019-20 Task Force on Shared Governance heard many questions, and devleoped an FAQ guide to help address them:
Frequently Asked Questions
- The Academic Governance branch:
- An independent advisory supporting shared governance:
- The College's published guide to academic governance and faculty life:
The Faculty Handbook
- Curricular oversight:
- Assessment oversight:
- An advisory supporting sustainability for and at Otis:
The Environmental Steering Committee
- Faculty Development Grants:
- Faculty Sabbatical Leave:
- Faculty Advancement in Academic Rank:
Rank and Promotion
- The College-wide information sharing group convened by the President:
President's Council Mission and Guidelines
- Staff expertise and cross-divisional information sharing adds efficiency and needed input:
- Senior Leadership:
Senior Leadership and the College Divisions
- The Fiduciary branch:
The Board of Trustees
- WASC's Policy Statement regarding institutions' governing boards, their composition and function, etc.:
Governing Board Policy--WASC
- WASC's Guide to implementing its Governing Board Policy:
Implementation Guide to Governing Board Policy--WASC
- Supportive Friends of the College:
Board of Governors
Input Gathering and Ongoing Conferral
- Informing institutional decisions through standing and ad hoc conferral:
Active Conferral Groups (spring 2020)
- The Student Voice is included in Shared Governance in many ways (see also Active Conferral Groups, above):
Student Voice in Otis Shared Governance
- Student Leadership organization, membership, and by-laws:
A Compelling Example of Shared Governance at Work
One example of Otis's shared governance system's emphasis on conferral, input gathering, deep synthesis of information from many sources, solution-building, feedback-seeking, and loop-closing communication is visible in the processes leading to and in the resulting 2019 - 24 Working Strategic Plan and Mission Refresh. This institutional plan was formed on a base of very broad, comprehensive, and deep input from many campus constituencies, and involved much synthesis if information gathered, and numerous feedback and revision cycles to ensure broad participation, contributions, and vetting.
2019 - 2024 Working Strategic Plan and Mission Refresh--Internal (for college use)
2019 - 2024 Working Strategis Plan and Mission Refresh--External (for public use)