Published May 23, 2019
“We all need to be at the table, with a voice and a vote.”
That line from the Doctrine of Shared Governance, adopted earlier this year by the Faculty Senate and the Professional Staff Senate, sums up the philosophy that has permeated campus governance at UB for the past four years.
In shared governance, faculty, staff, students, administration and councils — the “five pillars” of the institution — along with the UB Alumni Association, collaborate in the development of policies and decision-making to fulfill the mission of the university.
Since they assumed their respective leadership positions in 2015, Faculty Senate Chair Philip Glick and Professional Staff Senate Chair Domenic J. Licata have been working with President Satish K. Tripathi and student leaders “to position UB as a leader in shared governance,” Licata says.
Their ongoing efforts to promote shared governance at UB have not gone unnoticed: SUNY recently named UB the recipient of its Shared Governance Award for 2018-19. Licata will accept the award during the SUNY Voices Leadership Training for Campus Governance Leaders on June 4 in Albany.
“We are honored to receive this recognition with our shared governance partners in the Faculty Senate, Student Associations and UB administration,” Licata says.
He notes that he and Glick have been inspired by mentors in the SUNY University Faculty Senate and the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, as well as outgoing SUNY Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall and former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who incorporated shared governance into her “The Power of SUNY” vision for the system and into her first SUNY Strategic Plan in 2011.
“This award recognizes everyone in our community who has worked tirelessly to ensure that we all have a role to play in moving UB and SUNY forward, together,” Licata says.
“We also recognize that shared governance is a process that must be practiced and improved upon continuously. This award does not signal that we have reached the highest level of governance, but that we have made notable progress.”
That progress includes creation of an annual Day of Shared Governance, celebrated on the first Tuesday in March, as well as adding the word “shared” to the name of the Office of University Governance, the senates’ shared administrative office, to reflect their commitment to that core principle.
The chairs of the Faculty Senate and the PSS are regularly invited to attend UB’s senior leadership retreats, and lunches with the president and selected cabinet members to discuss pertinent matters of shared governance.
The chairs also have enhanced collaboration among the five pillars by devising a “litmus test” to determine whether a campus initiative involves more than one campus constituency and would be more impactful if addressed as a shared governance matter.
This enhanced collaboration among UB’s stakeholders was noted by Chancellor Kristina Johnson in a letter she sent to Tripathi announcing that UB had received the Shared Governance Award. She said the award’s Selection Committee had been impressed with the efforts and progress made by UB over the past several years, and cited three examples of governance projects that involved two or more of the pillars of shared governance at UB.
The projects — The Gender Equity Salary Study, Breathe Free UB and the cancellation of the late-night shuttle buses between the North and South campuses — “represent high-priority initiatives embodying shared governance and standards for best practice,” Johnson said.
Licata explains that over the years, the status of shared governance at UB “has ebbed and flowed with each new administration and shifting governance leadership.”
“While we can’t speak for the successes and challenges of our predecessors, Phil and I have worked more closely with President Tripathi and his cabinet to ensure that the voices of our constituents are heard,” he said, adding that the specific projects cited by the chancellor “show great successes at bringing together different stakeholders with common concerns, and working toward solutions that could not be realized by isolated decision-makers.”
Licata added that with the renewed emphasis on shared governance, both the Faculty Senate and the PSS “have seen a greater energy and involvement from our members.”
“But this is an ongoing effort; shared governance must be continually defended and nurtured,” he said.
“It’s our job to remain actively informed of the issues that affect us, and to maintain the trust and respect of senior leadership, so that at the start of any major decision-making process, they’re more likely to ask, ‘How can we include faculty, staff and student governance in this process?’”