Skip to main content

From the Desk: Faculty council involvement provides opportunity to share in IU’s governance

By Cate Reck and Colin R. Johnson

February 16, 2023

Reflecting on the most important lessons he learned during his storied career as president of Indiana University, Herman B Wells wrote, “It seems to me that the first task of an academic administrator is to try to attract and hold the most talented faculty members, encourage them, support them, and then get out of their way and let them go wherever their talent and energy lead them.”

This did not mean that Wells believed faculty should be denied the chance to participate actively in the shaping of the institution, however. Nor did he believe they should be absolved of the obligation to do so.

“Whereas talented faculty members have a right to be relieved of routine problems of housekeeping,” he continued, “there must be at the same time an opportunity for them and their colleagues to have a voice in all major policy decisions. Such input is requisite for the formulation of sound policy and is essential for the maintenance of the esprit de corps of the enterprise.”

The world has changed considerably since Wells’ tenure as president. One thing that remains the same, however, is the indispensability of the faculty’s influence over the mission and operation of an institution many of us have helped to build, sometimes over the course of decades, and that all of us hold in trust on behalf of current and future students and colleagues.

This week, faculty across campus received an invitation to nominate themselves to stand for election to the Bloomington Faculty Council. This self-nomination form will remain open until Feb. 24.

The self-nomination process is not the only step in determining whose names will appear on the official ballot for the BFC election this year, but it is a crucially important one. It represents a moment when any faculty member can signal their genuine interest in helping shape our campus’s future by participating actively in the enterprise of shared governance.

Faculty have also been invited to volunteer to serve as members on one or more of the BFC’s dozens of elected, standing and campus committees. These committees include Research Affairs, the Athletics Committee and the campus Child Care Coalition, and they are frankly where most of the campus’s most consequential policy-making work actually gets done.

As president and president-elect of the faculty, we would like to encourage all our colleagues to consider putting their names forward in one or both of these contexts. The enterprise of shared governance has been a distinguishing feature of American higher education for more than a century. At Indiana University Bloomington, it has an especially significant and eventful history dating back to at least 1947, when then-President Wells had the wisdom to first convene a faculty council with real policy-making authority. We believe this is a legacy worth preserving, and we invite you to join us in the task of doing precisely that.

Cate Reck is president of the Bloomington Faculty Council and Colin R. Johnson is the president-elect.