A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
September 9, 2004 Volume 35/Number 1

Academic Senate
Silence Is Not Always Golden

My predecessors have written columns on the general role of co-governance in the university and the importance of faculty participation in university policy making. With your indulgence, I'd like to take a few hundred words to talk more specifically about how to make the Academic Senate's role in co-governance stronger, why you should care, and what you can do about it. Briefly put, it takes all of us to form a voice, not just a few sitting around a table every other Tuesday.

The Academic Senate's job is to represent faculty, staff, and students in the decision-making processes of the university. It is not the only body on campus with this charge, but it has the potential of being the most significant, making direct policy recommendations to the president.

The way in which the senate gains influence in the university is by providing high-quality, trusted input. In short, the better the senate's reputation for giving good advice, the more it is listened to. It has a critical role to play in helping the university chart its course and setting the guidelines by which the faculty governs itself. Further, a vibrant senate is the best assurance for continued development of campus leaders.

The role of senators in this process is to be honestly engaged. By "honestly," I mean that it is every senator's responsibility to express her or his viewpoint on the issues before the senate. By "engaged," I mean that it is incumbent upon senators to do their homework and be prepared to discuss the proposals at hand. Such honest engagement leads to a full airing of informed opinions, and, hopefully, smarter and better recommendations.

The support of honest engagement leads me to the part about what you can do to improve the senate and its ability to be your voice in campus governance. You can help your senators be more effective representatives.

Keep informed about campus issues, and let your senator(s) know what you think. Better yet, offer new ideas. Even better still, become one of those honestly engaged senators. There are lots of ways to get a line put onto your service vita; the senate provides an opportunity to become involved on a campuswide basis to make things better.
So, the next time that you wonder about the wisdom of a new executive memorandum, or why a section of the FPPP is so confusing, ask yourself, "What did I do to make this happen?" There are times when silence is not golden. Become involved in the Academic Senate, your campus voice.

– Marc Siegall, chair, Academic Senate



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