December 18, 2007

University Governance

Another one of those things I wish someone had taught me comes from David Kay in this email:

"Okay; I get it now. Here's the story. It's actually a bit longer than you might expect.

At any university, there are faculty and there are administrators. Administrators have titles like chair, dean, provost, president, or chancellor (often with modifiers). In some places, administrators and faculty are constantly in opposition. In some places, the top administrators aren't even academics. The respective roles of administration and faculty vary from one university to another. In some places, administrators alone decide whom to hire and promote, for example.

UC has a somewhat unusual (and rather civilized) arrangement; it's called "shared governance," and it apportions university management between the faculty (the Academic Senate) and the Regents (who appoint the administration). (There's a third wheel, the Legislature, but we can leave them out of this.) Under shared governance, the faculty have responsibility for who gets taught, what gets taught, and how it gets taught (and similarly with respect to research). That's why we have Academic Senate committees on Educational Policy, Admissions, and so on. The administration is responsible for the money and the facilities and the scheduling. There are pretty clear lines drawn over who's responsible for what. At UCI, faculty/administration relations have historically been cordial; that's not the case at every UC campus. But there are little rules: For example, nobody at the rank of department chair or higher may be the chair of an Academic Senate committee.

Administrative structures tend to be hierarchical. Debra is the Dean of the School of ICS (appointed by the Executive Vice Chancellor/ Provost). She has appointed two Associate Deans: Mike Goodrich, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Amelia Regan, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Technically, she appoints the chairs of the departments, although it's done in consultation with the faculty. So David Redmiles is the chair of the Informatics Department. Department chairs can appoint vice chairs; David appointed me as Vice Chair for Student Affairs (although this was also ratified by the faculty in a hand-wavy kind of vote). (In CS, they have a Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, Ian Harris.) My duties are still evolving---I'm the first vice chair the department has ever had--- but they include running the grad student review, soliciting nominations for grad fellowships that pop up from time to time, approving various requests for exceptions, liaising with INSA and the student population in general, and some other things.

The faculty, meanwhile, forms committees to discharge its various responsibilities. There are committees at every level: departmental, schoolwide, campuswide, and systemwide.

(So, for example---and I never quite thought of it this way until just now---I sit on the committees that make undergraduate curriculum decisions at every level: the Informatics departmental Undergraduate Curriculum and Policy Committee, the ICS Undergraduate Policy Committee, the UCI Coucil on Educational Policy, and the systemwide University Council on Educational Policy. That's not quite as bad a collection of eggs in a basket as it sounds---the ICS UPC is made up of the departmental committee chairs, and I'm on the systemwide UCEP because last year I was chair of the UCI CEP.)

So you're chair of the Informatics Department committee on Student Outreach, Access, and Retention, and apparently you also sit on the schoolwide SOAR committee (of which Amelia is the convener--- not chair, because technically it's a faculty committee and she's there in her role as administrator).

Thanks David!

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