No Free Set of Stake Knives: One Long, Unfinished Struggle to Build Education College Faculty Governance

Ishmael I Munene, Senese Guy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we argue that any effort to organize faculty may be effected by longstanding customs and cultures which inscribe real if unstated “appropriate” faculty behavior regarding academic freedom. These affect both administrator and faculty response to organizing advances in governance. The “rules” and standards ofacademic life are not to be taken forgranted, nor the power of fear, inertia, learned helplessness, which willprovide resistance. These are not new,and are only reinforced by the corporatization of the university. Organizing can be accomplished, but it is not for the impatient. Beginning early in April, 2012, faculty in our College of Education met one of our three Dean candidates in open forum Each of this paper’s authors were interested in hearing his philosophy of faculty governance, since after a six and a half year struggle, we had succeeded in forming a representative Council for the faculty in the College. The question came: “in light of the establishment of a College Council in the past year, would you comment how you can see yourself working with this group, and can you tell us about your philosophy of shared governance?” The answer is paraphrased here: “They have no power.” In this paper we work to describe the star-crossed six-year process of establishing a common college governance model in a College which operated with few College or department level policy documents. The three authors, were all active and instrumental in developing a new interdepartmental governance model,and had a front row seat in the drama that unfolded. Without many other dedicated and responsible faculty, working to change minds toward voice, and away from passivity and avoidance, the project would not have succeeded. This paper discusses issues attendant to strengthening governance in a College of education where an old “normal school” culture of conservative custodialism, in a conservative state, worked against developing a more vigorous, if surely not radical mode of college governance. Yet with persistence, this effort was successful, if not perfect, and exists as the only such institution in a university of many colleges.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWorkplace:Journal for Academic Labor
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014


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