Friday Focus: Shared governance, shared responsibility

March 25, 2021

Tori Tragis

Chancellor Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
Chancellor Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

— by Dan White, chancellor

The university operates in a model of shared governance. This is a great model, tried and true and resilient through history. Shared governance is not just one thing, however, and it takes many forms — from individual faculty, staff and student involvement in university planning to the formal activities of long-established structures such as the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and the Associated Students of UAF. Employee and student involvement, whether through a formal structure or not, is shared governance.

That said, the formal structures serve an important role in governance and I, as chancellor, rely on them in many important ways, from informing to consulting to decision-making, depending on the need. While individuals and formal structures have different roles on different issues, the bottom line is that governance plays a significant role at UAF.

I bring this up to call your attention to this important function and encourage you to participate, because with shared governance comes shared responsibility. Faculty Senate, Staff Council and ASUAF have seats on the Chancellor’s Cabinet and appoint members to our academic program review, administrative review, search committees, planning committees and nearly every committee that serves the university. This is powerful. What this means is that someone in Faculty Senate or on Staff Council is representing you on these important committees, committees whose work is charting the course of the university, molding the  campus culture, and shaping the future of higher academia. Because these organizations are representing you in critical decisions, it is important that you participate and have your voices heard. This is the shared responsibility of shared governance.

Shared governance is most effective when the formal structures — Faculty Senate, Staff Council and ASUAF — reflect your perspective, hopes and dreams for the university. Because I rely on these organizations to reflect your voice in our most important decisions, please get involved. You can fill a seat as a governance leader, as a governance member or as an individual. All of our governance groups hold meetings that are open to the public, meaning you.

It is also very important that the governance groups reflect the diversity of the university. One of our six strategic goals at UAF is growing our culture of respect, diversity, inclusion and caring. This culture fosters the sense of belonging at UAF and that is critical everywhere. It is our shared responsibility.

As we get through some challenging times, it has never been more important to have a high-functioning shared governance process. This requires deep commitment and an unflinching belief that working together, we have the strength to achieve our aspirational goals. Please get involved. Shared governance is our shared responsibility.