Formalized in the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) strategic plan and in the reaccreditation process, shared governance is central to decision-making at UMB. On March 30, a panel discussion on the topic was held where campus leaders answered questions, urged audience members to take part in University government, and spelled out why shared governance is so essential.
UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, said he gained a new respect for shared governance as dean of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine from 2004 to 2010. “Every time I took a matter to the Faculty Council, they made it better,” he said. “Every time! And I learned that dialogue, some give and take, improves proposals. My experience here has been the same,” said Perman, who meets regularly with the UMB Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and University Student Government Association (USGA) and “it’s worked very well.”
Perman was joined on the panel by Colette Beaulieu, Staff Senate president; Geoffrey Heinzl, USGA president; and Isabel Rambob, DDS, secretary of the Faculty Senate, who moderated the discussion at the School of Dentistry, where she is a clinical assistant professor.
“I’ve been through a lot of changes in leadership here on campus,” added Beaulieu, who on the day of the panel celebrated her 30-year anniversary at UMB. “With Dr. Perman’s lead, they’re listening to what we have to say. We’re trying to get feedback from as many people as we can. It’s important that you participate. If you’re interested in making this the best University it can be, shared governance is a great place to start.”
Referring to UMB’s seven schools, Heinzl replied to Pond by saying, “If you’re looking for a model, you have six others to choose from you think about would be most appropriate for the dental students in trying to change that.”
The panelists agreed communication sometimes is lacking, though they said their governance groups strive for transparency with detailed meeting minutes and schedules available on their websites.
“Our meetings are open to anyone,” Beaulieu said. “We’re out at events happy to speak with you. You’re welcome to email us and we will get back to you. We’re here!”
Added Heinzl about the USGA: “If we’re not doing it right, we have to be held accountable. Everything is available on our website. We’re not hiding behind any walls. We really are trying to serve our populace — the 6,200 students at UMB. If we’re not doing it right, you have to tell us so we can do it better.”
Rambob stressed that students need to be involved. “Shared governance is a priority at UMB,” she said. “We believe in the shared responsibility among staff, faculty, administration, and students. Yes, students. We had a retreat last July where we discussed shared governance and goals for the upcoming year, and we felt strongly a need to include the students in the discussion.”
Audience members spoke of difficulty in finding time for involvement in the Staff Senate, and being told they’re ineligible because they are corporation employees — something Beaulieu and former Staff Senate president Bill Crockett, MS, RCRSP, promised to look into further. Ex-officio status, they said, could possibly be a solution.
Mark Macek, DDS, DrPH, who is on the dental school faculty, asked the panel for examples of effective shared governance.
Perman pointed out the recent forum at UMB to discuss Senate Bill 1052, which would expand a partnership between UMB and the University of Maryland, College Park.
“When the bill dropped in late February, I certainly had my own opinions,” Perman said. “It is such a major issue of importance to all of us that I as a leader wanted to have a sense of the faculty, staff, and students. So I consulted with the panelists and Dr. Sarah Michel, head of the Faculty Senate. To take this to even a broader audience, we held a town hall attended by nearly 400 people. Shared governance leaders spoke at that town hall and so did many faculty, staff, and students. It gave me a sense of what this community at UMB is thinking. Those are the times when I as a manager find shared governance to be most essential.”