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Open communication focus of Shared Governance Day

Speakers at Shared Governance Day, from left: Provost Charles Zukoski; Sharon Cramer, SUNY University Faculty Senate parliamentarian; UB Faculty Senate Chair Philip Glick; Virginia Horvath, president, SUNY Fredonia; Tanja Aho, president, Graduate Student Association; Connor Arquette, president, Jacobs School of Medicine Polity; Sai Bidarkoti, president, Financial Management Association, School of Management; UB Police Chief Gerald Schoenle Jr.; and Professional Staff Senate Chair Domenic Licata. Photo: Douglas Levere

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Published March 8, 2017

“Bringing everyone’s opinions to the table at the start brings ‘build-in vs. buy-in.’”
Virginia Horvath, president
SUNY Fredonia

The university community observed the second annual Shared Governance Day on Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate, with invited speakers including SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath and Charles F. Zukoski, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

The meeting, which was open to all members of the UB community, took place in the Center for Tomorrow on the North Campus.

Horvath, Fredonia’s 13th president and recipient of the first SUNY Shared Governance Award, told the group that open communication and bringing all ideas to the table are keys to developing policies and agreements that work to achieve larger goals.    

“Giving people the authority and responsibility of using their voice for the collective good — looking someone in the eye and respectfully disagreeing — is something I think we need more of,” Horvath said.

“Sometimes, just sitting back and letting others speak, to express their ideas, is the most important way to get everyone on board and involved,” she said. “I like to say bringing everyone’s opinions to the table at the start brings ‘build-in vs. buy-in.’”

Horvath told the group that approach often can result in “going around in circles sometimes, but in the end the ideas are stronger.”

In her remarks, Sharon Cramer, SUNY Faculty Senate parliamentarian, said patience among shared governance leaders is also a key to bringing successful results.

“So much of the work that we all do is invisible,” she said. “We are working behind the scenes most of the time so in addition to patience, a passion for shared governance — and enthusiasm — are also necessary.”

Connor Arquette, a second-year UB medical student and president of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Polity, also cited the importance of open lines of communication for the medical school student association.  

“The principles of shared governance work to keep our association in balance,” he said. “If you want to go fast, work alone. If you want to work well, work together.”

UB Police Chief Gerald W. Schoenle Jr. said the principles of community policing are keys to shared governance for University Police.

“We have been building these tenets of community policing into our training for a number of years,” Schoenle said.

“UB is very complex. In the course of an average day our officers can come into contact with members of the UB community from across the university,” he said.

“Everyone benefits from building greater trust between a university community and a university’s police department,” Schoenle said. “Hearing everyone’s voice, even while disagreeing with them, works for the common good.”

In his closing remarks, Zukoski told the group that for UB to respond to changing expectations and needs, the university’s faculty, staff, administration and students must have mechanisms for acting, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and open lines of communication.

“In particular, there has to be trust that we share common goals and objectives,” he said. “That we hear and take advice from each other, and that we are, in concert, dealing with issues in a timely and nimble manner.

“As a public university, we have a responsibility to meet the needs of our state, nation and students,” he said.

Zukoski noted that with nationwide increases in student debt, decreases in funding for public education and shifts in students’ interests and backgrounds, there is growing pressure on public research universities to change the way they operate.

“We increasingly are expected to deliver cutting-edge research that addresses society’s problems,” he said.

“We are pressured to decrease time-to-degree, student costs and to prepare our graduates more directly for careers. We are, also, met with a growing expectation to have a greater economic impact and help create jobs in our local communities.”

At UB, Zukoski said, “we have a robust governance system in place and we have already demonstrated that we can make large, significant changes when all of us work together.

“We achieved an unprecedented revision of the undergraduate curriculum, the UB Curriculum,” he said. “This involved the work of many faculty members and staff over several years. The Faculty Senate was critically involved throughout the process.”

Zukoski pointed to significant strides in enhancing faculty mentoring, citing the work done by the Faculty and Professional Staff senates, together with the vice provost for faculty affairs.

He also cited the role of shared governance in accomplishing changes in UB’s culture around diversity, equity and inclusivity, making the university an exemplar in SUNY.

“Through the Commission on Academic Excellence and Equity, which the senate helped to create, and more recently through the Equity and Diversity Strategic Plan, which benefited from the faculty and professional staffs’ input, UB has established a vision and strategic direction for diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.

Concluding his remarks, Zukoski told the group UB will continue to build its future by working together to chart directions and shape initiatives.

“We will accomplish this in areas such as enrollment growth plans and admissions policies, tuition rates and institutional aid policies, facilitating cross-disciplinary and multi-level educational program development, and enhancing the inclusion and engagement of international students.

“Our ability to respond to pressures facing higher education and succeed in achieving our mission,” he said, “lies at the interface of specific oversight areas of the faculty, staff and administration.”