Campus News

UB marks historic Day of Shared Governance

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher holds a mini stuffed Victor E. Bull as she videoconferences with attendees at the first University at Buffalo Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate Day of Shared Governance. Photo: Douglas Levere

By DAVID J. HILL

Published March 2, 2016

“Our ability to respond to the pressures facing higher education and to succeed in achieving our mission lies at the interface of all of the governance bodies that we’re talking about. We have to work together.”
Provost Charles Zukoski

Holding a mini stuffed Victor E. Bull, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher greeted a historic joint session of UB’s Faculty and Professional Staff senates via videoconference Tuesday as part of the University at Buffalo Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate Day of Shared Governance.

“Not only is this a historic moment at the University at Buffalo, it may be a historic moment for all of SUNY,” said Zimpher, who had legislative obligations in Albany and was unable to travel to Buffalo for the event.

The Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate had never before conducted a joint session. In the spirit of positioning UB as a leader in shared governance, the two senates declared that the first Tuesday of March shall be known as “University at Buffalo Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate Day of Shared Governance.” It is intended to be observed by the five pillars of shared governance — faculty, staff, students, administration and councils — as well as UB’s Alumni Association, said Faculty Senate Chair Philip Glick, who presided over the meeting with PSS Chair Domenic Licata.

President Satish K. Tripathi, right, talks at the joint meeting of the Faculty and Professional Staff senates. Photo: Douglas Levere

“Here at UB, we see the principle of shared governance coming to light in many important ways,” President Satish K. Tripathi said, citing as an example the fact that PSS members serve on many Faculty Senate academic committees.

“This collaborative approach ensures that we all move forward with a shared understanding of our goals as a university community and how we will achieve these goals. Achieving that shared understanding and commitment is really the guiding principle of shared governance,” Tripathi added.

Provost Charles F. Zukoski told those attending the meeting that UB's governance groups must all work together in order for the university to achieve its mission. Photo: Douglas Levere

In his remarks, Provost Charles Zukoski said significant changes in the landscape of public higher education — such as reduced state funding and increased pressure to produce cutting-edge research that addresses society’s problems — make shared governance and improved communication even more important. “Our ability to respond to the pressures facing higher education and to succeed in achieving our mission lies at the interface of all of the governance bodies that we’re talking about. We have to work together,” Zukoski said.

Zimpher joined the meeting for about 15 minutes via videoconference. SUNY University Faculty Senate President Peter Knuepfer, a professor at Binghamton University and a member of Zimpher’s cabinet, was in attendance. Zimpher thanked university leaders involved with UB Day of Shared Governance for their commitment to the initiative and encouraged them to share their ideas with her and Knuepfer.

She added that she hopes to hear about ways in which SUNY leadership can collaborate more with campuses, particularly their professional staff.

Zimpher also hinted there may be an opportunity to have a representative of a professional staff senate from a SUNY campus serve on her cabinet.

On the faculty front, Zimpher said more could be done to support adjunct faculty. “I think we’re not paying enough attention to the adjunct and contingent faculty issues,” she said. “In fact, I saw some of the advertisements of the UUP and I thought they were pretty powerful. I thought, ‘We might be in the way; let’s get out of the way and make something happen.’ I need a lot of enlightenment and information to make what you are doing today a reality for SUNY,” she said.

The idea for Tuesday’s joint session developed out of a SUNY Campus Governance Leaders meeting in June, Glick said, adding that the meeting’s significance was to show SUNY and UB leaders “the changes that we’re making in the governance of the faculty and professional staff (senates), and also for all of us to share ideas and opinions so we can go forward and make this an even better SUNY campus.”

Glick said he and Licata both have placed greater emphases on sharing information since the two assumed their leadership positions, both within the past year. Glick cited several examples of this, including a recommendation to Tripathi that the heads of the Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Senate and the Student Association serve on the UB Foundation board.

The joint session concluded at 4:30 p.m., at which time attendees were invited to sample complimentary fare from Lil Blue, the university’s newest food truck, which was parked outside the Center for Tomorrow along with Big Blue.

At the start of the joint session, Glick held a moment of silence in memory of Solomon Jackson, the UB football player who passed away Monday night.