April 2022

Inclusion in Governance

I was pleased to receive the recommendations from the Inclusion in Governance Task Force, and pleased that LCP, LSSC, and EC have embraced the recommendations, including a process for shaping a new governance mechanism. As you’ll see here, I am enthusiastic about this new direction for our library. 

The Task Force recommends that we create a new governance mechanism composed of representatives from all of our employee groups, and that this more inclusive form of governance will serve as the primary mechanism for communicating the perspective of elected employee representatives, collaborating with Library administration in shaping our future. In a very clear sense, this new group will do much of the work our faculty Executive Committee has done in the past, including appointing committees and providing feedback on hiring priorities and budget decisions. By creating this new committee, we will bring the voices of all of our employee groups into that important advisory role laid out in shared governance.

While this new governance committee will take on much of the work our Executive Committee has done in the past, EC will continue for a number of important reasons. First, the University Statutes codifies the existence and some of the roles of college executive committees. Second, it is also the case that some issues (particularly faculty issues) are the responsibility of the faculty Executive Committee. Finally, in practical terms, the new governance group draws part of its membership from the Executive Committee. 

As noted in the charge to the original Inclusion in Governance Task Force, governance involves an important balance and dialogue between administration and employee representatives. In that charge, we quote Gary Olson’s 2009 column “Exactly What is ‘Shared Governance’?” in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Genuine shared governance gives voice (but not necessarily ultimate authority) to concerns common to all constituencies as well as to issues unique to specific groups.

In his article, Olson goes on to explain that the legal responsibility for decision-making sits with administrators (typically through a process of formal delegation that begins with the Board of Trustees), and that through shared governance this administrative role is informed by the advisory role of elected representatives: “True shared governance attempts to balance maximum participation in decision making with clear accountability.”

The success of this new model will depend on all of us to work meaningfully in a partnership. As dean, I must engage genuinely with the committee to guide me in the administration of the Library. I appreciate the wisdom and experience all our library employees bring to the challenges we confront, and these perspectives will help us improve our work as a library; when I disagree with a recommendation, I will need to clearly articulate my reasons for that disagreement. To be successful, the committee must also “participate as true partners” with administration, avoiding “an inherently adversarial relationship” and trusting in the administration’s commitment to the best interests of the campus and our employees (quotes from Olson). 

I also need to note that one challenge for us will be that this new model also depends on our Executive Committee to keep its focus specifically on faculty issues and to defer to this new group when it comes to topics of broad Library relevance that EC would have typically addressed in the past; while this will be a challenge, I believe that EC is committed to this new role. 

I am optimistic about the future role and contributions this new governance committee will have to the work of the Library. I look forward to the creation of the new group and to working with them. Olson concludes with the observation that “The key to genuine shared governance is broad and unending communication.” I endorse this sentiment and the new direction recommended by the task force.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian