‘A seat, a voice and a vote:’ what shared governance means to UB

UB community gathers for fourth-annual Shared Governance Day

shared-governance-day

UB community members chanted “A seat, a voice and a vote” at the fourth-annual Shared Governance Day to emphasize the purpose of shared governance Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate organized the meeting at the Center for Tomorrow, where UB and SUNY community members spoke about the importance of collaboration on campus  ––  or shared governance. Ken O’Brien, a former SUNY Brockport professor, discussed “why shared governance is patriotic,” and SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Provost Tod Laursen spoke at the meeting on speaker phone. Gunnar Haberl, UB Student Association president, and University Police Chief Chris Bartolomei also spoke to the crowd of roughly 100 people on the relevance of shared governance in their positions.

PSS Chair Domenic Licata and FS Chair Philip Glick opened the meeting by defining shared governance and its role at UB. 

“Shared governance is the bedrock of higher education in the United States,” Licata said. “Since the first shared governance day in 2016, the faculty, staff and students have worked together with the administration on many significant initiatives around our academic mission.”

Glick said shared governance should be a priority for every member of the UB community.

“We’re here today because we all want to make UB a better place,” Glick said. “Any decline in the participation of faculty in governance seriously threatens the quality of higher institutions.”

O’Brien took an interactive approach to the discussion and asked attendees for their goals, best and worst examples and threats to shared governance. 

He said shared governance is “one of the basic tenets of higher education” but “is not generally well understood.”

“It’s really difficult to define, but you know it when you see it,” O’Brien said.

The audience’s goals included having a voice in university decisions and the “opportunity for collaboration.” 

The audience said threats to shared governance included the issue of “complacency” and people refusing to involve themselves in university conversations, leaving administrators to make decisions alone and defeating the purpose entirely. 

Haberl discussed SA’s achievements in the past year and attributed its progress to the collective efforts of university members.

“My entire term, we’ve prioritized [shared governance],” Haberl said. “We started with the rebuilding of relationships, and it’s relationships that get the job done. [I] hope that whoever gets elected next year continues to build those relationships.”

Johnson and Laursen congratulated UB for being a “leader” in the shared governance initiative and briefly discussed SUNY’s PRODI-G (Promoting Retention, and Opportunity for Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) program, which intends to increase the diversity among SUNY faculty members.

Johnson said the program will unite “SUNY, individual campuses and donors” to hire 1,000 “diverse and inclusive” faculty members. 

Glick said there are multiple “pillars” to shared governance which include students, faculty and staff.

He said Tuesday’s meeting was important to “get all the pillars at the table.”

Licata said everyone should be involved in discussions at UB to help the university grow.

“You all have a seat at our table, a voice that will be heard and I urge you to continue to assist us in building the best UB that we can together.”

Kieran Power contributed reporting to this story.

Jacklyn Walters is a Co-senior News Editor and can be reached at jacklyn.walters@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @JacklynUBSpec