by John M. Quigley, Chair
In reaction to perceived violations of the principles and traditions of shared governance at the university, last spring the Senate voted to conduct a mail ballot on a proposal to censure the UC Board of Regents. The Senate also established four advisory groups to evaluate aspects of university governance. The group charged with analyzing the faculty's relationship with the regents -- the so called "Kerr Committee" -- reaffirmed the faculty's commitment to shared governance and petitioned the Board of Regents to make a similar affirmation. The Kerr Committee emphasized that the tradition of shared governance in this university extends well beyond the legal and technical authority granted to the regents.
The report was endorsed by the Divisional Council in May and was revised by the Academic Council in late July (and retitled "the Academic Council Resolution on Shared Governance"). It was anticipated that President Atkinson and Academic Council Chair Mellichamp would present this resolution to the regents at their meeting on Sept. 19, 1996.
President Atkinson ultimately decided to present his own statement on shared governance to the regents and to defer the presentation of a formal resolution until the report of the task force on governance established by the Academic Council is in hand.
Atkinson's "Statement on Shared Governance" and the response to the President's statement by Council Chair Mellichamp are reproduced below.
President Atkinson also addressed the Kerr Committee's principal concern in his subsequent letter to Chair Mellichamp (also reproduced below). As Atkinson makes clear, "shared governance involves not only delegation of authority, but a long tradition of collaboration, communication and implicit understandings among faculty, administration and regents. The realities of shared governance, far from being exhausted by legal aspects, encompass in equal measure our customs of consultation, dialogue, discussion and deliberative analysis as essential to governing a great university." Atkinson's is a very strong statement and I am grateful to the president for putting his job on the line in support of the faculty. I'm also grateful for Duncan Mellichamp's leadership and his role in this action by the Office of the President.
At the beginning of the fall semester, I began preparations for the mail ballot on censure. I appointed a committee to produce ballot materials and background information. This material must now be approved by the Senate's Committee on Rules and Elections and will also be scrutinized by the Divisional Council. After this, ballots will be sent out to all Senate members. More than a few colleagues have asked whether this vote can be suspended or delayed indefinitely. I see no way to do soćshort of a vote by the division. In the light of the president's actions, it is even more important for faculty to consider how we can be most effective in supporting the principle of shared governance. The Berkeley faculty can claim credit for exerting a leadership rolećthrough the Kerr Committeećin bringing matters of governance forcefully to the attention of the Academic Council and of the president.
Senate members must consider carefully whether a vote, now, to censure the regents will serve well our common interests. A mechanism has been suggested by President Atkinson to bring these issues before the regents. It certainly seems prudent to pursue those actions that have the best chancećin the long runćof improving the practice of shared governance in the university.
Statement On Shared Governance
President Richard C. Atkinson
Regents' Meeting Sept. 20, 1996
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Board:
I have been talking with a number of faculty in recent weeks about issues they consider important to the university as we enter this academic year. One of the concerns that has surfaced in these conversations is whether there has been any retreat from the commitment of the university to the principle of shared governance.
I have told these faculty members that the regents, in both public remarks and private statements, have made it clear that they fully support the concept of shared governance as it has existed in the University of California since the 1920s. I have also told them that the regents look
forward, as I do, to the report on shared governance that the Academic Council has undertaken at my request. The Academic Council has appointed a special task force whose report will review the history of shared governance at UC and the structure, organization and operation of the Academic Senate and its role in governance.
Once I have the Senate's report and any recommendations it chooses to make, I will bring the matter to the regents.
Shared governance is not a single or a simple concept. It is an intricate tapestry of rules and relationships, practice and policy. An institution of our size and complexity needs, from time to time, to step back and take a look at how it governs itself in light of the nature and purposes of the university. The Academic Council's report will be a welcome opportunity to help us do this in a thoughtful and systematic way.
Our system of shared authority and responsibility among regents, administration and faculty is the single most important reason for the University of California's greatness, and it is just as essential to our success today as it has been for more than three quarters of a century. I would not be president of this university if I did not believe the regents join me in that conviction.
Statement by Academic Council Chair Duncan A. Mellichamp in Response to President Atkinson's "Statement on Shared Governance"
Regents' Meeting, Sept. 20, 1996
Those of us who are closely involved in governance appreciate the importance of UC's unique system of shared governance. In my view, one of UC's remarkable characteristics has been its expansion from a single, excellent campus to nine. If one considers each campus in turn, no matter its age or size or breadth of programs, many uniquely excellent academic programs will be found.
How and why has that happened? One major element in that process has been the propagation of academic values from the first campus, Berkeley, to the others, much of that through the mechanisms of the Academic Senate. A second major element has been the regents' historic delegation to the faculty of the key responsibilities for academic programs, again through the Senate.
We appreciate the president's shared concern about the health and vigor of our governance structures. As he mentioned, since last winter the Senate has had a task force on governance at work. Its original purpose was to study the Senate's own effectiveness in representing the faculty.
The task force is an appropriate body to consider the broader issue of shared governance, referred to it by the president. I can assure you that we will provide a careful assessment of this important topic. And we will report out our findings to the regents and to the administration when that study is complete.
Letter From President Atkinson to Academic Council Chair Mellichamp
Sept. 23, 1996
I appreciate the Academic Council's fine work in contributing to the shared governance of the university. My personal and professional commitment to the principles of shared governance is, I hope, apparent in the statement I made to the regents on Friday, a copy of which is enclosed.
There is one further point about shared governance that I want to make clear to avoid any possible misunderstanding of my views. My May 1st letter to the regents discussed shared governance in the context of the investigation then underway by the American Association of University Professors and included an opinion I requested from General Counsel Holst regarding Standing Order 105.2, which governs the authority and responsibility of the Academic Senate regarding admissions. Some have apparently interpreted the inclusion of this opinion as implying that the University's tradition of shared governance can be defined solely by the legal relationship involved. This is not my view, nor is it the view of the general counsel.
As I sought to emphasize in my May 1st letter, shared governance involved not only delegation of authority, but a long tradition of collaboration, communication and implicit understandings among faculty, administration and regents. The realities of shared governance, far from being exhausted by legal aspects, encompass in equal measure our customs of consultation, dialogue, discussion and deliberative analysis as essential to governing a great university.
These customs and traditions under which we operate have served the university and the citizens of this state well. As my statement to the regents makes clear, our commitment to the principles of shared governance and to the preservation of our customs and traditions is firm and will remain so during my term as president.
Richard C. Atkinson