University Officials Exploring Creation of Staff Senate, Presidential Cabinet

Frostburg State University Interim President Tom Bowling is exploring the creation of a Staff Senate, as well as starting a form of shared governance in which the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Government Association would come together as a presidential cabinet.

The presidential cabinet would advise the university president and improve communication between the three groups. “One of the primary purposes of such a group would be to formalize the input from all three shared governance groups: faculty, students, and staff,” Bowling said.

Bowling, whose tenure as interim president ends on May 9, said that “It could potentially be finalized before May 9th, but only with a green light from Dr. Nowaczyk.  My thought is that we would try to have it operational by next fall, so there is not a great deal of urgency.”

“I would want to consult with Dr. Nowaczyk regarding his ideas for membership,” he said, adding that, “the staff who would be involved in a Staff Senate would be those who are excluded from collective bargaining.”

Dr. Ronald Nowaczyk, who becomes FSU’s next president on May 9th, told The Bottom Line, “I do support and believe in shared governance.  It is one of the hallmarks of successful colleges and universities in the United States.  Dr. Bowling has briefed me on the discussions to ensure the voices, opinions, and ideas of students, faculty, and staff at Frostburg State are heard.  I am very supportive of these efforts to explore and identify the best way to make that happen. I am comfortable with the concept of a presidential cabinet that brings all groups together to discuss and advise on matters of importance to FSU.

“At Clarion, unlike FSU, all faculty and most staff have union representation,” Nowaczyk continued. “This results in a larger number of groups involved in governance, each with specified roles as articulated in negotiated contracts.”

Explaining the structure of shared governance at Clarion University, where he is currently provost, Nowaczyk said, “The president invites all the vice presidents and the leadership of all of the campus governance units, including the student senate, to a monthly meeting to discuss the state of the school, update everyone on actions underway or in discussion, and answer questions from the constituencies represented.  I have found those meetings to be very helpful in addition to the one-on-one meetings that take place between administration and the governing bodies.  Opportunities like this open communication channels and dialogue.”

FSU’s staff is represented at the university level by the President’s Staff Advisory Council (PSAC). PSAC’s constituency includes “all non-faculty, non-bargaining unit employees of the University, excluding Associate Vice Presidents, Academic Deans, and members of the Frostburg State University Executive Committee.”

PSAC represents and advocates for the 107 staff members at FSU that lack union representation. There are 374 staff members who are represented.

Dr. Jesse Ketterman, dean of students, is the university’s primary representative to that council.

PSAC does not meet regularly, but it does have a yearly meeting with the university president to discuss staff concerns. Ketterman said he hopes for the council to meet more regularly.

“We have an interest in the well-being of the university and the direction of the university,” said Ketterman, noting that the staff could bring a different and unique perspective to a presidential cabinet. Because the staff works to provide services for students – like counseling services and health services – the staff can advocate for help in those areas.

Ketterman said, “when we talk about shared governance, I feel like it should be students, staff, and faculty coming together.” He explained that a staff senate once existed, but it was restructured into a staff council after a collective bargaining agreement was passed.

At the university system level, the Council of University System Staff (CUSS) represents and advocates for the 107 staff members at Frostburg who are not represented by a union, Ketterman said.

Dr. Mike Murtagh, who serves as chair of Faculty Senate, voiced support for a shared governance system and said a cabinet would be a good idea. However, he noted that students are already involved in the governance system through SGA representatives serving on campus wide committees.

“Students can play a much larger role than they currently are by SGA appointing students to serve on a number of governance committees that include seats for student members,” he said.  

According to Murtagh, faculty and administrators are struggling to find student representatives to serve on committees and participate regularly in meetings.

“So given there are already slots on committees for students, it seems to me the quickest way to increase the student’s role in governance would be to make sure specific students are assigned (or elected) to those positions, and then to make sure they attend and participate,” Murtagh said.

SGA President James Kirk said that he has attempted to reach Murtagh to arrange student representatives, but he has not received feedback from Murtagh.

“Since August, my executive board and I have made numerous efforts to work with the Chair of the Faculty Senate to coordinate the assignment of students to these posts, with little success,” Kirk said. “

Murtagh said that there is probably a miscommunication and that he sent Kirk a list of campus-wide committees that needed students. Kirk said he received “three separate, incomplete, and contradictory lists of campus-wide committees on September 18, 2015.”

Kirk explained, “In order to appropriately appoint student representatives, I emailed the Chair of the Faculty Senate on September 25, 2015 and asked for a meeting to clarify the documents we had been provided and to answer questions about how to facilitate student representation on the necessary committees.  To date, SGA has not received a reply to this email.”

SGA’s executive board had discussed pursuing shared governance, which would give SGA the opportunity to work much closer with administrators. Kirk emphasized his support for SGA participating in a shared governance system.

“A lot of the other universities in the state have some sort of group where representatives from the student senate, faculty senate, and staff senate all come together to meet with administration together, so that gives SGA more of an institutional voice and a vehicle to express our concerns directly to these other groups on campus,” Kirk said. “I think this would be a really great opportunity for us to kind of have a little more institutional voice so that we can speak and voice our concerns and the concerns of our constituents.”

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