The University of Montana
The University of Montana
Vice President for Student Affairs Teresa Branch opened the meeting. After welcoming everyone to the University Council session on the topic of Shared Governance, she introduced the first of the speakers, UM Legal Counsel David Aronofsky.
David Aronofsky gave a brief overview of governance and the Montana University System (MUS). For most of the 20th century, public higher education in Montana was at the mercy of the legislature, in turn driven by private companies and their interests. It was not uncommon for university professors to be fired or intimidated for promoting ideas contrary to those held by people in positions of power.
The 1972 Constitutional Convention addressed the status of public higher education in Montana and the general consensus was that steps had to be taken to prevent politicians from further influencing and meddling in the public higher education system. The University of Michigan’s autonomous governing board for higher education was chosen as a model for Montana and the Montana Board of Regents was formed. (As an aside, Aronofsky noted that these days, our system is most similar to that of the University of California or the University of Minnesota in terms of shielding higher education from government influence.)
In 1984, a Montana Supreme Court case (Judge vs. Board of Regents) supported the MUS’s autonomy, when it ruled that MUS was allowed to make its own decisions in terms of determining presidents’ salaries and allocating funds within the university system.The Board of Regents is the vehicle for discussions about public higher education between the legislature and the university system. The Board of Regents delegates campus-level decisions to the universities; each campus determines how governance will be shared.
In closing, Aronofsky stated that the situation in Montana is unique. The Board of Regents is “overly protective” of students in the shared governance process. At UM-Missoula, there is unprecedented recognition that student representatives wield legitimate power.
Jeff Edmunds, ASUM Vice President, spoke next. He echoed the idea that we have a unique shared governance system at UM, characterized by a history of open dialogue and mutual trust.
ASUM was founded in 1905 and is unique in that it is one of only two student government organizations nation-wide to run a production company (UM Productions). In addition, it owns and runs a transportation service, child care services, legal counsel services, has a political action group, etc. There are 23 ASUM Senators, and after Dining Services, ASUM is the largest student employer on-campus. The ASUM has its own constitution, including by-laws and a review board for constitutionality. ASUM can be considered an autonomous arm of Student Affairs. The Vice President for Student Affairs advises and mentors ASUM representatives.
ASUM representatives serve on university committees. Student representation on university committees is critical, as students should have a voice and be included in policy dialogue and problem-solving. The inclusion of students in discussions concerning the university is a key element of shared governance. ASUM works closely with the staff and faculty senates, since students, staff and faculty are shareholders, or partners, who are directly affected by decisions made by the university administration and thus should have their say in these matters.
ASUM creates “resolutions”, which are like legislative bills, on a variety of topics and forums, and brings them to the Board of Regents. There is a Student Regent on the BOR; student governments put forth nominations for the Student Regent to the Governor, who then names him/her. Montana Associated Students is a representative body of elected executives of all student governments across the state (of which ASUM President Jen Gursky is president) that also works closely with the Board of Regents, as well as a legislative lobbyist who works along with the university lobbyist to advance the student agenda during legislative sessions.
Finally, Edwards mentioned the town hall-style meetings ASUM organizes to further improve communication between students, staff, faculty and the university administration and promote the inclusion of all voices in the policy-making process.
Laurie Fisher, President of Staff Senate, spoke next while projecting a PowerPoint presentation. She introduced Staff Senate leadership and explained Staff Senate’s mission and some of their activities (to advocate for staff, presence on university committees, search committees, Brand Strategy Task Force, Day of Dialogue, Charitable Giving Campaign, Homecoming fundraiser, etc.) Staff Senate leadership meets with the President on a regular basis, and attends Board of Regents meetings twice a year. The Staff Senate Scholarship committee raises money to provide scholarships to UM for the children of university staff members. The Staff Senate organizes several yearly events to promote staff recognition.
Recently, Staff Senate reinstated the Staff Survey for the first time in almost twenty years. The response rate was 41%, and results (analysis of which is not yet complete) showed:
MUSSA is the MUS Staff Association and Tammy Yedinak represents UM there.
In closing, Laurie stated that participating in shared governance with ASUM and the faculty senate has been an eye-opening experience. She has a greater appreciation and understanding of faculty and students. Working together we can create a more cohesive, unified campus.
Dave Beck, President of Faculty Senate, spoke next while projecting a PowerPoint presentation. UM’s Faculty Senate was established in 1961. Its longstanding good relationship with the university administration is unique, as is the important role Faculty Senate plays in university governance, which is written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). One area of particular influence is that of curriculum oversight.
Like ASUM and Staff Senate representatives, Faculty Senate representatives also participate actively on university committees. The Faculty Senate shares the sentiment that faculty leaders, along with staff and student leaders, are partners in policy dialogue with the university administration.
In terms of representation at the Board of Regents, the state-wide faculty senate system (MUSFAR) serves in an advisory capacity. Faculty Senate representatives also attend BOR meetings but they do not have the same (voting) representation as students do.
Beck closed his talk with the following quotation from Edgar Bowen, Elder Chief of the Coos Tribe (1926-2011): "The price of sovereignty is eternal vigilance".
Phil Condon, UFA President, spoke last. The University Faculty Association participates in shared governance mainly through the mechanism of collective bargaining. All UM faculty members have the right to the collective bargaining process, and the UFA is the teachers union, the contractual representative of faculty on campus (tenure-track faculty and adjunct faculty having taught for at least one semester, for at least 0.5 FTE). The UFA’s Executive Board is elected annually, and UFA representatives are present in every academic unit on campus. CBA article 7.0 establishes the authority of the Faculty Senate and advocates for release time for faculty interested in serving on the Faculty Senate.
There was only time for one question, which was more of a comment:
It would be well worth our time to revisit this topic at a future session of the University Council, or at a town-hall, open forum-style meeting providing an opportunity for broader discussion on how to collaborate in the future.
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