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Governance Reconsidered: How Boards, Presidents, Administrators, and Faculty Can Help Their Colleges Thrive

Governance Reconsidered - Susan Resneck Pierce

By Susan Resneck Pierce, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, May 2014. ISBN: 978-1-118-73849-8

As pressures mount in the academic world, more and more presidents and trustees are ignoring the traditional processes of shared governance by making decisions about academic matters that previously had been considered the primary responsibility of the faculty. In Governance Reconsidered, Susan Resneck Pierce examines the reasons for this trend, and how it has impacted American colleges and universities.

Throughout her decades-long career as a faculty member, dean, academic vice president, president, and consultant, Susan Pierce has believed that colleges and universities are most successful when all constituencies (including trustees, the administration, faculty and staff members, students, and as appropriate alumni and the larger community) work collaboratively. But the landscape of higher education has changed in recent years, fraying the conventional notions and practices of shared governance. Confronted with unprecedented financial challenges, many boards now charge their presidents with responding rapidly to these challenges without extended and sometimes any consultation with the faculty.

To help institutions resolve this tension between the need for timely action and deference to the faculty’s role in academic matters, Governance Reconsidered addresses these key topics:

How the notions of shared governance have evolved over the last century

  • The nature of the pressures facing higher education
  • Clarity about the roles and responsibilities of trustees, the president, and the faculty
  • How trustees, presidents, and the faculty can work together in new ways to respond quickly to external challenges and at the same time preserve the integrity of the academic programs
  • How thriving universities govern collaboratively

Governance Reconsidered also focuses on the impact on shared governance of the growing number of contingent faculty, online education, and increasing questions about the value of higher education. These matters have a profound effect on how institutions are run and on the actions of those who run them.

College presidents, trustees, faculty, senior administrators, and student representatives need to think in new ways about higher education governance, as well as how to apply those principles to build a prosperous institution. Readers of this book will learn from both cautionary tales and success stories from the world of higher education. These case studies demonstrate how Susan Pierce’s inspirational view of shared governance can work in practice. Governance Reconsidered explains how to meet the challenges of today’s higher education environment by enacting transformative change while simultaneously engaging faculties, boards, and communities.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Governance Reconsidered

“Susan Resneck Pierce reminds college presidents, trustees, and faculty members that, despite much handwringing on the topic of academic governance, they actually can and in fact must work together in a spirit of mutual respect and shared mission. Her perspective is practical and aspirational, prudent and ambitious, informative and encouraging.”
 — Jo Ellen Parker, president, Sweet Briar College

“This book is rich with insights and helpful advice for college and university trustees, presidents, and faculty seeking to navigate the challenges of shared governance. It should be required reading for all who wish to understand what contributes to a well-run institution of higher education.” 
— Kathleen L. Rhinesmith, former chair, Board of Trustees, Ohio Wesleyan University

“Susan Resneck Pierce’s On Being Presidential is required reading for those who aspire to or embark upon college presidency. Now, with Governance Reconsidered, she provides a work that will be invaluable to those who sit in the ‘corner office’—and to the boards that hire them. This book should definitely be on the bookshelves of college presidents and board members.” 
— Georgia Nugent, president emerita, Kenyon College

“This book paints a realistic picture of the governance forces that today’s college and university presidents must reconsider in order for their institutions to thrive in the face of new challenges and opportunities.”
—Molly Corbett Broad, president, American Council on Education

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