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EO 050 673 






HE 002 145 

CorsoB, John J. 

Governance: Interacting Holes of Faculty, Students, 
and Administrators. 

American Association for Higher Education, 
Washington, o. C. 

16 Mar 71 

5p- ; Address presented at the 26th National 
Conference oh Higher Education, Chicago, Illinois, 
March 16, 1971 

EDRS Price MF-J0.65 HC-53.29 

Decisionmaking, *Governance, ^Higher Education, 
♦Power Structure 


The central cause of the present sorry state of 
governance in many institutions is an historical misunderstanding as 
to the real nature of a college or university. Most institutions have 
inherited a formal organizational structure founded on the concept of 
hierarchy, a concept that is totally unsuitable to the needs of an 
institution of higher education, where power does not reside at a 
single source at the top, but in varying proportions in three or four 
groups. Proposals for modification of governance include: (1) the 

establishment of a new mechanism within the institution to make 
possible community-wide participation in governance; (2) making 
explicit the redistribution of authority that has been taking place; 
(3) the strengthening of leadership to maintain the college or 
university as a viable institution; (4) the establishment of means to 
enforce accountability with every extension of authority; and (5) the 
modification of the traditional structure of high school, junior 
college, 4-year college, professional and graduate schools. These 
proposals go a considerable way toward devising a system of 
governance designed to facilitate the engineering of consent. (AF) 


Concurrent General Session I 
Tuesday Morning, March l6 

AJ.S. department OF heauth. 

eoucation s. welfare 



;AT10N position OB POLICY. 



John J. Corson 

Chairman of the Board 
Fry Consultants 









Higher education is embroiled in change — change made manifest by confronta- 
tions on the campuses, by vacancies in the offices of president of more than one 
hundred institutions, by the financial difficulties of a third or more of all 
colleges and universities, and by the persisting criticism voiced in the daily press, 
in the state legislatures, in the Congress, and in the streets. It profits no one 
to contend that this campus turmoil is the consequence of social forces the 
university neither caused nor can influence — the persistence of war, the racial 
revolution of the 60s, urbanization, and technological advance. The change goes on, 
and it is bringing about marked alterations in the structure of colleges and uni- 
versities and the processes by which they are run. 

It is said that ''on a clear day one can see forever" but the day is not clear 
enough and I am not brave enough — or at least, not foolish enough — to predict 
what the governance of the university will be like in, let us say, IpSO. 



It is possible to point out the central cause of the present sorry state of 
governance in many institutions » And it is possible to appraise the rash of reforms 
being proposed in the light of the root cause. Hence TJhat I will do is to identify 
five proposed modifications in the ways colleges and universities govern themselves 
or aire governed^ assess the logic on which each is founded ^ and piece together a 
rationale as to the course which the evolution of governance is taking. 

An Obstacle to Modernization 

The central cause of the present sorry state of governance in many institutions 
is an historical misunderstanding as to the real nature of a college or university. 
Most American universities inherited a formal organization structure founded on the 
concept of hierarchy. That concept presumes that all authority is granted b}^ che 
founders or the public by means of a charter to a governing board at the top. 
Theoretically, such a beard has all authority and the power to exercise it. And, 
as the theory goes, the board delegates authority to a president who is to direct 
and supervise all activities, He^ in tvarn, delegates authority to deans, depart- 
ment chairmen, and administrative officers. 

If this hierarchical structure fit the college or university of the first 
quarter of this century, it was because in that bygone era: a) the trustees and 

presidents could indeed comprehend the whole body of knowledge their institutions 
were transmitting; b) the faculties were made up of men content to sit on the 
proverbial other end of Mark Hopkins' log rather than men dedicated to or consumed 
by the rat race of research and publication, and the mobility that goes with it; 

■^Address presented at Concurrent General Session I at the 26th National Conference 
on Higher Education, sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education, 
Chicago, Tuesday, March 16, 1971 • Rights to reprint or to quote are restricted . 



Concurrent General Session I 

Tuesday Morning; March l6 -2-- 

c) the institutions tucked away in their rural fastness were indeed autonomous 
rather than subject to a variety of demands for services for the larger community; 
and d) the students^ even if bright; were a supine lot; coached not to "stick their 
necks out" either by venturing their own ideas or by failing to conform with the 
beanie hat for freshmen; or other prevailing customs. 

There was a time when the hierarchical structure; with authority concentrated 
at the top; did work for most institutions. NoW; when the simple teaching institu- 
tion located in a pleasant college town has become a large; complex; multi- 
functional institution that houses professors possessing greater specialized 
expertise and economic status; and more sophisticated students — the hierarchical 
structure that looks like and was copied after the structure of a business enter- 
prise simply does not fit# 

It does not fit because power — the power needed to exei^ise such authority 
as a law or a charter grant — does not flow from a single source on high as the 
hierarchical structure implies. In a corporation; power flows from the stockholders 
or it has passed to the managers of the enterprise; in either event; it flows from 
a single source on high and it can be delegated down. In a college or university; 
all power — that io; to repeat; the capacity to make decisions — does not reside 
in a single source at the top. It resides simultaneously; and in varying proportions, 
in three and sometimes four groups that make up the institution — the trustees 
and administrators; the faculty, the students, and sometimes the alumni — and it 
flows in various directions. 

In short; as an organization, the college or university differs — and differs 
- fundamentally — from the business enterprise or the governmental bureau or agency* 

It differs in the degree to which power flows either from one source or from 
multiple sources > 

Proposed Modifications 

With this basic thought in mind, let us now look at five proposals — each of 
which seems to be gaining some degree of acceptance — as to how the structure of 
college and university governance should be modified. 

Proposal ffl — New mechanism should be established within the college or university 
to make possible community-wide participation in governance. 

A variety of such mechanisms are actually being established. Students are 
being named to committees to sit with faculty members and/or administrators and 
others in formulating decisions on a broad variety of questions. Faculty members 
are serving on a variety of administrative and trustee committees. And in a number 
of institutions (e.g., the universities of Minnesota and New Hampshire, Pennsylvania 
State and Princeton) new councils, senates, or assemblies have been established 
to regularly bring together representatives of each of the factions that share power 
in the university to discuss a wide range of issues requiring decision, to confront 
each other with their respective views, and to offer the president and trustees 
such advice as they can hammer out in debate. 

The reasoning underlying the proposal that such a council, senate, or assembly 
is needed rests on the fact that the college or university must be recognized for 
Q what it is — a political community. By "political community" is meant that the 
CD l^.nstitution is made up of several factions, each of which possesses parochial views 
yy^^Qind the power to disrupt or endanger the institution's operationso Decisions that 
will stick (i.e., that will harness the zeal or at least win acceptance) can only 


<^ • * 

Concurrent General Session I 

Tuesday Morning^ March l6 -3- 

be made through a process in which the several factions are consulted, can voice 
their opinions, and exercise an influence commensurate with the competence they 
bring to each particular decision# 

Such mechanisms are beneficial in that they take out of the president's office 
the interaction between students and faculty, between faculty and administration^ 

But the perfecting of such mechanisms requires that further agreement be 
hammered out as to: 

1# Who shall be represented on such a council, senate or assembly (eog., the 
librarians? the teaching assistants?) ^ 

2# Howj and in what proportion, shall each faction be represented; and 

3# What authority the council, senate^ or assembly shall have (ice#, what 
range of issues will they be authorized to consider and what weight will 
their decisions have?) 

Proposal #2 — The redistrib>:tion of authori t y that has been taking place within 
the college and university needs be made explicit s, 

It is obvious that the relative power to make or to exercise authority has been 
shifting within many institutions « Briefly, trustees and presidents have been losing 
power to exercise the authority that theoretically is still theirs^ And faculties 
and students have been gaining power and, hence, gaining effective authority* 

This redistribution of power creates a current and especial need for the re- 
definition of the authority of oach faction of the trustees, of the president and 
his administrative staff, the faculty, the students, and the alumni* This process 
of redefinition, initiated in many institutions during recent years, promises to 
reduce tensions if it succeeds in bringing about an open-minded reappraisal of the 
role of each faction* 

The broad goal may vjell be to place authority for the making of each kind of 
decision involved in the governance of an institution where the required competence 
exists# By competence is meant not only knowledge of the particular issue, but a 
recognition of the concerns of the whole institution# The goal should be to require 
that those who are given authority to make decisions shall simultaneously be expected 
to consult continuingly with each faction concerned with or affected by the decisions ^ 

Those guides — competence and concern — can make feasible the kind of re- 
appraisal that is needed# Such redistribution of authority is neither simple nor 
pleasant when it requires those who have had authority — particularly the trustees 
and the faculty — to cede it to others* And it is made doubly difficult by the 
necessity of accepting the idea that educational decisions (sog#, who shall be 
admitted, what shall be taught, or how well it is being taught), financial decisions 
(e#g*, how the institution shall invest its endowment and how it shall allocate its 
resources), and other decisions are of concern to and can be improved by the parti- 
cipation of all or several constituencies# 



• '» 

Concurrent General Session I 

Tuesday Morning^ March l6 - 14 - 

Proposal #3 — If the college or university is to remin a viable institutionj the 
leadership needs be 

lace of the obvious decline in the power of university and college 
presidents and in the face of the earlier abdication of power by trustees (who 
imp y recogtii?.ed their incapacity to make decisions as to the educa lona , 
research and itany service activities of the institution), one may well recall the 
wor s of two distinguished presidents « 

Douglas Kc'lregor, after several years as president of Antioch during which, 
as he subseqaentiy wrote, he strove "to operate, , , as a kind of adviser" to the 
faculty and sta.ff "to avoid being a fboss, concluded that: "It took a couple of 

years, but I finally began to realize that a leader cannot avoid the exercise of 
authority any more than he can avoid responsibility for what happens to his 
organization? Kingman Brewster of Yale compHeraented this thought when in a speech 
to the Yale Union in September 1969 he advanced his thesis that the ^ 
president should be free and be expected to make decisions on a wide range of issues 
boldly, promptly, and decisively — always knowing that he will be held accountable 
by students as well as faculty and trustees. 

Brewster’s comment clarifies the real nature of the president's office: that 

of a political leader. The president's task is that of maintaining the interest, 
supporo, and loyalty^ and giving leadership to the several factions that make up^ 
the institution. The president can be an educational leader only if he is effective 
as a political leader of the whole academic coimuanity. The strengthening of the 
office of the president also requires, however, a reaffirmation of his authority 
and a restructuring of his staff to enable him to carry the responsibility for 
academic leadership and for student relations, as well as for general administration 
and for acquiring needed financial support. 

The reasoning underlying current proposals for the strer^gthep^ng of leadership, 
even while the authority of students is expanded and that of the ^;iculty bitoadened 
and affirmed, rests on pragmatic bases. 

Institutions of higher education are large and complex, will not run them- 

selves, And they should not be run to serve the whims of faculty members, or the 
experimentation of students. These institutions are established and supported to 
benefit the whole society, and all decisions must be tested in the crucible of the 
public interest. The interests of either iv.culty or students do not necessarily 
coincide with the public interest. It is not feasible that all should decide every- 
thing or even that each faction should be consulted as each issue arises. 

To ensure that the institution is run in the public interest and with reasonable 
econoTty and efficiency, requires strong and effective leadership by those who are 
thoroughly cognizant of the inatitution's whole functioning — educational philosophy," 
educational methods, coats of instruction, facilities required, Interdisciplinary 
relationships, and the relative emphasis to be placed on research and on social 
services of various types. 

If trustees are to measure up to the exercise of such leadership, most existing 
boards need to be reconstituted. Their membership will have to' include more youth- 
ful members, women, blacks, faculty members, and students. Without such broader 
representation, the boards are ill equipped to translate the society's current 
d ioncerns to the institution, to make decisions founded on an understanding of the 
hlyCiducational process and on an intimate understending of the capabilities of the 

Concurrent General Session I 

Tuesday Morning^ March l6 -'5- 

institution^ or to interpret and defend what the college or university is doing 

providing legal services for the poor) unless it knows that such service is 
being provided and how it complements the educational function* 

Proposal ffh ~ Every ext en sion o f^a^^hcrity must be accompanied Jjy means to enforce 
ac c ountabili ty o 

Whatever form of governance exists must produce results that are acceptable to 
the several constituencies within the college or university. If the students are 
given complete authority for student life, the environirient they create must, in the 
long run, be considered suitable to facilitate learning in the opinion cf the 
faculty and of those who provide financial support© By the same token, if the 
faculty is delegated authority for control of admissions, of curricula, and of the 
certification of educational accomplishment, its members must expect to be held 
accountable — bj” students as well as by administrators^ trustees, professional 
groups, and their peers o The participation of students on departmental ^advisory 
committees, and their "rating" of faculty members and of courses are obvious 
manifestations of the enforcement of such accountability* 

If the president is granted full authority in the matters pertaining to the 
institution's administration (as circumstances dictate he should), then he must 
expect to be held aoccAiiatabl© — not only by the trustees, but also by the 
constituencies he serves, and particularly the faculty and the students© 

This fact, which has been obscured by our conventional addiction to concepts 
of hierarchy inherited from corporate and governmental organization, lies at the 
root of suggestions that the president's services be evaluated at stated periods 
and that he be asked at that time to continue or to leaver The nub of these 
proposals is: 

A, that the quid pro quo for the reaffirmed executive discretion granted the 
preeddent is a periodic (eog©, 5 or 7 years) reappraisal of his performance 
by the whole community he serves, and 

B* that establishment of such a formal arrangement will stimulate regular, 
widespread and serious consultation by the president in the carrying out 
of his responsibilities* 

Proposal — The traditional str ucture of high school-junior college-four year 
college-professional and graduate schools should be m od ified . 

The same social forces that lie at the roots of the redistribution of power 
within the college and university — the society's greatly increased dependence on 
advancing technology and on specialized skills, the drive to equalize opportunity 
for all hitherto less privileged people, urbanization and growing affluence — 
challenge long-standing institutional arrangements in higher education* 

The present structure (dating back to the time when only a small and select 
part of the nation's youth were being educated for the professions of law, medicine, 
theology, and teaching) has been expanded to train a vastly greater and less 
select number© Simultaneously, it has been extended to perform the research and 
provide the services the society now demands from the university© But it has been 
little changed and many of the new institutions — community colleges, state 
nolleges, and regional universities — have tended to ape both the programs and 
— le structure of long-established prestigious national universities, instead of 

Concurrent General Session I 
Tuesday Morning, March l6 

- 6 ^ 

framing programs and structure applicable to the needs of their new and diffei^ent 

New developments — which should not be perhaps listed again before a know- 
ledgeable group such as this one — are al.tering the landscape of higher education 
today and call forth suggestions for the logical restructuring of this country* s 
system of higher education* Only last week, many of these suggestions were spelled 
out forcefully in a report issued by a nine-member panel headed by Frank Newman of 
Stanford. Stressing the urgent need *‘to break free from the conventional wisdom** 
the panel deplored the fact that the nation* s higher education system "with its 
massive inertia, resists fundamental change, rarely eliminates out-moded programs, 
ignores the differing needs of students, seldom questions its educational goals, and 
almost never creates new and different types of institutions.** 

Among its recommendations, the Neman task force called for: 

• new types of colleges and special-purpose institutions 

• off.-campus study ventures such as tutoring centers and **regional 
television colleges** 

• flexible systems for earning credits and degrees (including the 
development of equivalency examinations) 

• increased . college enrollment for all age groups 

• internships and other non-college opportunities^ foi* young people 

• restoring campus autonomy in statewide system. 

Governance on a Clear Day 

Obviously, the welter of change that is visib}e and the suggestions for 
restructuring that have been advanced, do not provide a neat and comprehensive plan 
for the reordering of the total structure of higher education* Such a plan will 
not likely emerge and less likely be achieved* 


"What is needed at this point in time, is a hard-headed, open-minded, and 
thorough evaluation of the five proposals for the modification of college and 
university that seem to be gaining some measure of consensus® **Fcr too long,** as 
the Assembly on University Goals and Governance has pointed out, **colleges and 
universities have borrowed their governance from business and public administration.** 

Recent years have demonstrated that the governance of colleges and universities 
cannot be founded on a structure that relies on the authority to command — be it 
by trustees, a president, or a state coordinating board. The foregoing proposals 
go a considerable way toward devising a system of governance designed to facilitate 
the engineering of consent. Hhen that clear day arrives — on which we can see 
forever — it will, hopefully introduce a new structure that will distill the best 
from each of the five proposals I have depicted. Only a complete system of 
governance thus evolved will be capable of ensuring : 

— that freedom of thought and expression for teachers and students alike is 
maintained j 

—that the knowledge and skills found on university campuses is applied *to 
society's problem j and 

—that the bold and effective decision making, essential for institutional 
management , is the order of the day.