INSIDE Chico State
0 May 1, 2003
Volume 33 Number 15
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Academic Senate Chair

Good Chemistry = Good Products

Photo: Jim Postma, chair, Academic Senate

Jim Postma, chair, Academic Senate

In a previous column (January 31, 2003) in this slot, I discussed the chemistry of shared governance, focusing on the essential elements that go into those processes. I thought I’d continue the analogy by discussing the products of the process; after all, chemists spend very little time working with the basic elements. Instead, they look at the wondrous array of combinations, compounds, which are formed from them. If you combine commitment, collegiality, time, energy, trust, and the other essential elements, what do they produce?

This is a dangerous analogy if misapplied. Some chemists work to produce coatings and paint, substances that cover blemishes and provide a nice-looking veneer. That’s certainly not the goal of shared governance. Other chemists spend all of their time on analysis but never produce anything new. Analysis is necessary but not a goal in itself. A small number of chemists produce explosives, substances that produce a lot of noise, but the output is short lived and usually destructive.

It is my hope that the results of our campus chemistry as it relates to shared governance emulates the work of two kinds of chemists: synthetic chemists and environmental chemists.

Synthetic chemists take the elements that are available and combine them into new, useful substances. These processes take lots of creativity, time, patience, and energy—but the results are more than worth the effort. The huge advances in new pharmaceuticals, more efficient fuels, better materials, faster computers, and smaller appliances are easy to admire. I have seen better ideas developed, new approaches taken, and creative structures developed through the healthy approaches of genuine shared governance. I am committed to the processes (however frustrating) because if it is done right, the product is really better.

Environmental chemists monitor and analyze, but their ultimate goals are to create healthier environments. Good governance structures, policies, and processes also create a more pleasant environment to work and be educated in, and people who participate in such processes are healthier.

A call went out from the Academic Senate office in the past few weeks for faculty to put their names forward for service on university committees and boards. In my experience, there are many benefits of such service besides the good products that I have mentioned above and in my previous article. From my university service, I have benefited personally and professionally from the following:

  1. Contacts across campus and across the system that have led to good friendships, new ideas, and worthwhile collaborations in pedagogy or professional opportunities.
  2. New ideas that come from seeing how the same rules can be applied in different ways on sister campuses or corresponding departments.
  3. New perspectives on how good things are here at CSU, Chico relative to other campuses or departments. (Not always, but usually.)

Once again, I encourage you to become involved in the shared governance process, whether for the benefit of these personal “products” or the environmental ones.

Jim Postma, chair, Academic Senate

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