A Seat at the Table
When people think governance at a college or a university, what immediately comes to mind is president, executive staff, and board of trustees. Each are important, but there is one other group with a significant voice often underestimated: faculty.
Bay Path, like many other colleges and universities, operates with a system of “shared” governance. What does that mean? The Chronicle of Higher Education best summarized the term:
Fundamentally, it is a collaborative system where everyone has a role.
At Bay Path, the role of the faculty is critical. They provide insight into academic and student matters that lie at the heart of the University’s mission. They are the window into the classroom, and their relationships with students, as well as with one another, can provide valuable insight into what is and what is not working, and how the University can respond to what students need. Essentially, the faculty are the stewards of the curriculum. And key to this fluid dynamic is the faculty chair who is the faculty representative to the administration and board of trustees.
New Faculty Chair Elected
For the past four years, the faculty chairmanship has been held by Dr. Mark Benander, director of psychology graduate programs. As of July 1, 2021, the baton will be passed to Dr. Tom Mennella, associate professor of biology.
Elected by full time faculty across the University, the faculty chair is a two-year term with only one opportunity for re-election, allowing the faculty chair to serve a maximum of four years. What are some of the functions of the position? Dr. Mennella provided an answer.
“Let me begin by saying it is quite an honor to be the faculty chair,” says Dr. Mennella. “As the chair, I have several responsibilities. First, I preside over the Faculty Assembly that meets once a semester. I am also a member of the Provost Cabinet and attend all the meetings. Importantly, I am a non-voting member of the academic affairs and student life subcommittees of the Board of Trustees. To be in the room and have a seat at the table, providing those subcommittees with the faculty perspective, is extremely valuable.
“In addition to my position, there are faculty liaisons from the traditional area, The American Women’s College, and the graduate programs. They are the conduits for the faculty forums, at which faculty can talk freely and confidentially about concerns. If a concern has consensus, then the liaison surfaces it, and the concern is discussed institutionally with the vice president of academic affairs and other members of the administration, as needed.
“Every other week, the campus community leaders meet: faculty chair, liaisons, deans, the HR director, academic vice presidents, and President Doran to provide an update on how we are doing. The important point is that there are avenues to surface concerns or blind spots within the University. We know the bottom line is that we all have to find ways to serve our students as best we can within the framework of our mission, and these meetings help make that possible.”
The University, faculty, staff, and students thank Dr. Benander for his service. He has provided Dr. Mennella with a strong and true path to follow, which continues to assure that our students have a transformative experience at Bay Path.