The concept of shared governance serves as one of the cornerstones of Illinois State University, and flows through several of the institution’s core values. Now Illinois State is lending its expertise in shared governance to help form a National Council of Faculty Senates.
This fall, Illinois State’s Academic Senate Secretary Martha Horst traveled to Texas to join faculty members from state universities across the nation. Together, they founded the national council, dedicated to encouraging the sharing of strategies, policies, and best practices toward shared governance and academic freedom.
“We want to provide a voice for higher education and a means to communicate successful implementation of shared governance,” said Horst, who has served on the Academic Senate for more than a decade.
The new, national council will have 41 founding members from state institutions that hail from New York and Georgia to Kentucky and Washington, D.C. Initial efforts will include developing a database and listserv to support communication on evolving issues. “When universities face similar challenges, it helps to be able to seek advice from others who have been there,” said Horst. “The goal is to create a network to help institutions move forward.” Topics discussed at the Texas gathering included first amendment free speech concerns, guns on campus, and the national perception of higher education.
“We are very proud to be able to call ourselves charter members of this national body,” said Illinois State’s Academic Senate Chair Susan Kalter. “We are an example of why centers of learning thrive when led by their faculty, students, and staff, not just their Board or administration.”
During the conference, Horst noted again and again how Illinois State was leading the way nationally when it comes to shared governance. “We do things in a collaborative fashion at Illinois State,” she said. “Our faculty and students have active input in decision making, and our upper administration truly participates in the collaboration, bringing a level of transparency not seen in many places. It’s effective leadership that is a model for other universities.” She added the idea of students being part of the governance process was novel as well. “It seems to be a special set-up here, but one that works well to allow students to help shape the future of the institution.”
Illinois State is known nationally for advances in shared governance. The institution was recognized on the 2018 honor roll of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For,” including the category of Collaborative Governance.
Horst, who chairs the Rules Committee for Illinois State’s Academic Senate, will help to define the rules of the national council. She noted Illinois State’s history of shared governance dates back decades. “We can use those experiences to effectively lead a national effort,” she said.
Shared governance reflects Illinois State’s core values of Collaboration, and Learning and Scholarship. Discover Illinois State’s values and directions in Educate • Connect • Elevate: Illinois State – The Strategic Plan for Illinois’ First Public University 2018-2023.