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Larry Faulkner's Eight Principles of Shared Governance

Underlying everything is a clear, mutual understanding of the university's mission and social purpose. All parts of the university have a role in speaking to such matters, but the trustees manifest the institution legally on behalf of the public, and, in the end; they have the responsibility to define the mission and social purpose. In the complex institutions of today, defining overall mission also means addressing the desired balance among the most prominent aspects of effort and output, including instruction at different levels, research and outreach in various forms.

The second essential is integrity throughout the governance structure. The board must operate with fiduciary integrity. Every appointed officer must be a person of integrity. All faculty-based processes must manifest integrity. If integrity is lacking, changes must be made.

Every participant in the governance structure - trustees, appointed officers and faculty leadership - must be committed to act consistently in the institutional best interest.

The faculty should be granted operational authority in matters that are genuinely academic. They should also have advisory rights on other institutional matters, such as budgeting and finance, that bear on academic quality and integrity, even though they may not be in themselves academic.

Depending on the pattern by which authority is delegated, the trustees, president, and chancellors should be satisfied that the mechanisms of faculty governance are appropriate in scope and sound, both in design and in operation. Appointed officers should have clear responsibility and authority for most institutional policies and for daily operation. They should have the obligation to defer to the faculty in genuinely academic areas, but they must be willing and able to act in a timely manner.

Over many years, I have found the greatest aid to effective decision-making is listening carefully. Three decades ago, as a department head in Chemistry at Urbana-Champaign, I developed the personal practice of talking to everyone in the primary circle of those likely to be affected by a significant decision. In that job and all later ones, I found to some lasting surprise, that people will grant the right of decision to the decision-maker, if that person has heard them out. It is not necessary to accept their views, but one does have to actually listen, not just go through the motions. People can tell the difference. I commend this practice to every officer and even to trustees, within the bounds of practicality. In the end, it is quicker than not doing it; it sometimes allows one to avoid egregious missteps, and it clarifies and facilitates, rather than paralyzing, decision-making. Let me stress again that timely decision-making is extremely important at every level. Faculty processes that fail consistently on this point should be changed. Administrative officers who cannot act timely should be replaced. Excerpt quoted by permission from Larry R. Faulkner, "An Indispensable Arrangement," presentation at the University of Illinois Board of Trustees Retreat, Chicago, Illinois, July 18, 2012.