The Predominant Voice

Here at OU and many other large universities, the political, academic, and legal authority is held by many different groups of people, but who, precisely, should have the final say in issues regarding the following topics?

  • Hiring faculty
  • Creating/revising curriculum
  • Deciding undergraduate admission
  • Determining faculty workload
  • Making tenure decisions
  • Dealing with student misconduct

And ultimately, what voices should predominate the political and academic governance structure of a college? The administration of the university seems to hold most of the authority, and the decisions of this group of people are typically honored above others, but in regard to the specific topics listed above, aren’t there certain people who should be overseeing them?

With regard to hiring faculty, the respective colleges (College of Arts & Science/College of Engineering/etc.) should have the final say and should be given most of the authority in selecting, interviewing, and evaluating candidates. Let’s say that an impressive prospective faculty member is applying for a position in the Price College of Business. Who better to evaluate this person than the administrators and other faculty members within the Price College of Business? They are familiar with the expectations and successes of the college, and they will be working with this new person, so their opinions are most important.

When it comes to creating and revising curriculum, again, the individual colleges should be in charge of this, particularly the professors/instructors. They are the ones teaching day after day, interacting with and hearing the opinions of countless students, and they will ultimately know what is most effective and what will lead to academic success.

For deciding undergraduate admissions, the university administration is best capable of doing this. While evaluating learning patterns and identifying effective teaching methods comes more easily to individual colleges and their faculty members, deciding who to actually admit to the university is a decision best left with neutral administration. They have the university’s general statistics regarding previous years’ enrollment, student satisfaction, and they typically have more resources with which to use in determining who will thrive at the university and who will not.

In determining faculty workload and tenure decisions, the individual colleges and the university provost should have control. Individual colleges can allocate work to its faculty members, and when it comes to tenure, these faculty members will be evaluated (by the college under which they are employed) and this suggestion will be either accepted or declined by the provost.

Lastly, in dealing with student misconduct, the administration should have ultimate power. As this is a more general issue, it should be dealt with by a group of people that is relatively unaffiliated with specific branches of the university. If an issue arises specifically within one of the specific colleges (Someone plagiarizing within The College of Architecture, for instance), that college should be given the right to address an issue before sending it on to administration.

In terms of who should have ultimate authority, or whose voices should predominate, it is difficult to say. As evidenced above, there are many facets of a university that are best dealt with by only certain groups of people, and it seems as though there is not one particular person or group that should have more authority. My final thought is simply that people with little experience in higher education should not be given a lot of decision-making power. With little in their lives to reference and a lack of understanding (I firmly believe that lack of experience leads to lack of understanding), they cannot possibly know how to properly navigate the complexities of a university.

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