Democracy Thrives When Shared Governance Lives
Alongside the positive and open leadership model exemplified by Interim Chancellor Peggy Valentine was a model offered by the FSU Board of Trustees (FSU BOT), Board of Governors (BOG), and the UNC System with the recent chancellor selection. Their top-down approach limited full campus, alumni, and community involvement, appears to involve insiderism, and presents a result that is not merely unprecedented, but which raises serious questions about the integrity of the process and individuals involved in decision-making of the process.
As experienced by FSU faculty, the leadership model offered by these boards is concerning at best. As professional educators, researchers, thinkers, and creatives, we are committed to rigorous evidence and the search for Truth. Nevertheless, reports among the media, alumni groups, and the larger community present a perplexing and troubling circumstantial case that reflects poorly on the appointees of decision-making bodies involved in the process..
This erosion is evidenced by thus far unaddressed and deeply concerning media reports.
This erosion is evidenced by the shroud of secrecy involving the selection and hiring process, including the opaque nature of campus visits and compartmentalized communication.
This erosion is evidenced by the embarrassing press conference announcing the Chancellor selection on Thursday, February 18, 2021, and the inadequate responses by Mr. Augustine, Mr. Allison, and Mr. Womble, and the subsequent stumbling communication to the media by University officials.
This erosion is evidenced by the apparent disregard for the principles of shared governance, both in the exclusion of a fuller campus community and representative bodies like the Faculty Senate, and in the possibility that the limited campus representation offered by the search committee was ignored by these leaders.
This erosion is evidenced by the lack of security and the attack on morale felt by FSU faculty members, alumni, and others, raised after years of under-resourcing and the potential of a sham appointment process fostered by the very leaders for whom “trust” is in the name of their position.
This erosion is evidenced in the potentials for nepotism, favoritism, and insiderism apparent in this process and which are a matter of public record and knowledge.
This erosion is evidenced in the lack of Truth available for our community to have a complete, thorough, and transparent understanding of the process.
Furthermore, when an erosion of trust emerges, restoration depends on transparency, clear commitments to shared governance, and a new process that involves all stakeholders.
As FSU faculty, we have experienced models of leadership that build trust or erode it. There are ways to engender transparency or obfuscate and obscure the Truth. There are approaches that provide security and facilitate morale, and approaches that don’t. There are techniques that persevere and excel in these challenging times and techniques that exploit those challenges in pursuit of an agenda.
We have no basis for believing that good intentions or the wishful thinking of leaders with stated public agendas and histories will result in the future success of this proud institution. After treating FSU like a second-class institution for years, continually raising the specter of campus consolidation and efficiencies, failing to move on stagnant salaries and benefits, and allowing faculty contraction by attrition as permanent lines are replaced by term hires, we doubt the Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, System officers, or others suddenly awoke one day with FSU’s best interests in mind. And if they did, that decision was calculated to exclude the interests of our highly qualified, capable, mindful, and quality faculty who, each day, are tasked with and make good on the institution’s remarkable mission to transform the unique lives of our students and energize our region of North Carolina.
We call upon all the leaders whose actions have -- even in the smallest way -- eroded trust, obscured Truth, obfuscated, justified, masked, hushed, compartmentalized, or winked about agendas, people, or discrete interests as part of their work leading to this point, or whose actions, intentional or negligent or otherwise, have put at risk the security and morale of the community, or who have in any way enabled others in these behaviors, remaining silent and complicit, to:
Come clean with the campus community, seek reconciliation, and reaffirm a commitment to shared governance, transparency, Truth, and trust, and
Take concrete steps to rebuild that damaged trust, and
Involve the campus community in real terms in all planning and conversation that affects its mission, leadership, composition, and identity, and
Reinvest in the people making that happen on a daily basis, or
Resign from their respective positions.
We expect and insist that this work of justice and accountability begins now. Each day that this community experiences further delay, silence, “waiting it out,” or hoping their frustration will subside is a day where leaders renew their contempt for this institution, its people, and our community.
We can move forward. We call upon these leaders to move with urgency and generosity.