SHARED GOVERNANCE AND STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
RUNNING HEAD: STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT & SHARED GOVERNANCE
Saving the Rose: Stakeholder Engagement
in Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar College
Stacey Sickels Locke
University of Maryland University College
March 4, 2016
Stacey Sickels Locke is a masters student at University of Maryland, University College; Senior Director of Development, College of Sciences, University of Maryland College Park.
Stacey Sickels Locke is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and served on the Major Gift Task Force for Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., one of the parties funding lawsuits to save the College. She has a blog, www.beingunlocked.com, where she documented the attempted closure and stakeholder efforts to save the College. She authored one of the sources used in this paper which appeared in the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education Currents magazine.
Higher education is in crisis. In March, 2015, the President and Board of Sweet Briar College, whose symbol is a rose, attempted to close the 100 year-old institution in rural Virginia. Stakeholders revolted, filed suits and ultimately control of the College was handed to a new board. The circumstances faced by Sweet Briar are not unique and point to trends in higher education. The suits filed and the saving of Sweet Briar provides examples of engaged stakeholders fighting for their rights. The research question for this paper is, “What lessons may be learned from the attempted closure and resurrection of Sweet Briar College and how might shared governance play a role in the future?” References provide trend data on higher education and examples of shared governance at other institutions. Sources also provide glimpses into the trends of higher education faced by governing boards and stakeholders, including where there are breakdowns in communication and governance. Reference sources highlight stakeholder groups including student, faculty, staff (administrators and support), alumni and the wider community. Sweet Briar College must reinvent itself and its governance. lessons learned from other institutions can be considered for the future.
Keywords: Sweet Briar College, stakeholders, shared governance, students, faculty, staff, exempt staff, non-exempt staff, alumni, alumnae, minority, president, board.
Saving the Rose: Stakeholder Engagement
in Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar College
Association of Governing Boards (2013). Consequential boards adding value where it matters
most. Report of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance. Association of Governing Boards Research and Reports. Retrieved from http://agb.org/sites/default/files/legacy/2014_AGB_National_Commission.pdf
Many of the articles reviewed for this research paper refer to the work underway by the Association of Governing Boards. It seemed fitting to use final recommendations from this report in the paper pointing the way forward. One bias inherent in the work is that it is prepared for the governing boards themselves and the committee was made up of primarily governing board members. Therefore, the very stakeholders that might wish for greater roles in governance were unable to shape the final product. Of all members of the committee, only one appears to be a professor. It does not appear any exempt staff member or student was included. Deep within the report lies a telling sign of this bias referring to shared governance as a “shared pain” (p. 11). The final section does provide some suggestions for improvement emphasizing expanding faculty input on decision making and there is some mention of administrators who should be included in governance structures (student affairs and career services).
Barron, J. (1990). Black-Hispanic alumni unit approved by Baruch College. The New York
In this article, the issues of black and hispanic alumni are highlighted. After a legal suit, the groups were successful creating independent alumni groups and using the Baruch name. The President of the College ultimately resigned over an insensitive memo regarding race. The case was later reversed by a higher court; however, the current Alumni Association does recognize the value of affinity groups. For a research paper on stakeholder engagement and shared governance, this article provides important benefits for an independent alumni association.
Biemiller, L. (2011). Women's colleges try new strategies for success. Chronicle Of Higher
Education, 58(4), A26.
Bielmiller uses Wilson College as an example of a small, liberal arts women’s college which has reinvented itself to survive. It provides examples such as a mothers with children program that is unique and attracts students from all over the country. The article’s purpose is to put the success of some colleges in the context of so many closing. The article is helpful to a paper on the attempted closure of Sweet Briar College which faces some of the same challenges and has considered some of the options for change, including going co-ed. The audience of the Chronicle of Advancement and Support of Education includes students, faculty, staff and businesses associated with higher education. This article will be used to show examples of Colleges surmounting challenges.
Carmody, D. (1988). Georgetown redefines alumni role. The New York Times. Retrieved from
This article provides examples of three different types of alumni associations including independent, departmental, and a hybrid model where the staff member is an employee of the institution, but serves an independent board. Georgetown University’s alumni association sued the college to maintain its independence. More importantly, the alumni associations for black and Hispanic students felt they needed independent representation to best serve them. The article also gives two other examples of New York University which has maintained indepence. While the article is dated 1988, it still provides important examples of independence as institutions are shifting back towards this model after a period of corporatization in higher education in the 1990s. This article will support the independent alumni perspective on shared governance.
Clark, C. (2003). Building authentic intergroup dialogue on campus: Living a commitment to
shared governance and career path development through the full inclusion of all members of the University community. Multicultural Education, 11(2), 55-58.
This article provides examples from the University of Maryland where the Office of Diversity engaged non-exempt housekeeping and administrative support positions in diversity dialogues and story circles. The outcome of the conversations over a period of a year resulted in more engaged employees who ultimately engaged in deeper ways throughout the institution. This study provides an example of how staff stakeholders (often overlooked in academic environments) can provide meaningful input. In the case of Sweet Briar College, the staff had no rights or recourse when the former leadership voted to close. One interesting aspect of the work at Maryland is the combining of exempt and non-exempt staff to come together and find shared values. The author gives a strong description of often ignorant bias and the importance of stakeholder communication both formal and informal. An example of the Policy adopted by Maryland is included in the article. This piece is helpful to address the role of non-exempt staff stakeholders in an article on shared governance as a solution to the challenges faced by Sweet Briar College.
Golden, D. W. (1980). An alma mater of one's own: Faced with college merger or closure,
independent alumni associations can survive and thrive. CASE Currents, 6(10), 50-51.
The Brookings Institution shared data that 200-300 colleges could close in the decades after the 1980s. In this article, the author gives three examples of alumni associations surviving their closed colleges. The readers of CASE Currents are experts in fundraising, communications public relations, and other aspects of higher education. While the article is dated, the issues it raises are still relevant. Furthermore, the Western College Alumnae Association exists today even though the College has been closed for over 30 years. Ms. Golden raises important issues of how an independent alumni association forms. These lessons engaging alumni may be worthy for all Colleges and Universities to consider. Given Sweet Briar College nearly closed, considering an independent alumni association may be worthwhile.
Johnston, S. W. (2010). Affirming shared governance. Trusteeship, 18(2), 4.
This editorial by the Vice President of the Association on Governing Boards suggests shared governance as a solution to a number of issues facing institutions of higher education. The readers of Trusteeship include members of governing boards, administrators and staff members in higher education. Ms. Johnston provides a summary of the primary challenges facing higher education including enrollment reductions, state budget cutbacks, uncertain returns on investment and the constant need to evolve. Shared governance is presented as a solution to all of the challenges. A unique feature of the article is her advocacy for faculty involvement in governance. The article is helpful to understand the benefits of shared governance presented from the perspective of an organization who would not exist if it were not for governing boards. The stakeholders Ms. Johnston mentions; however, are rarely included in governance.
Kadlec, A., Shelton, S., & Lumina Foundation for, E. (2015). Outcomes-based funding and
stakeholder engagement. Lumina Issue Papers. Lumina Foundation For Education, (p. 1-7).
This Lumina Foundation report makes a case for the financial benefits of stakeholder engagement at all levels of the university in policy including faculty, staff and students. Often, students and staff are left out of the equation and this study provides solid justification and benefit for rethinking this approach. The report gives concrete examples for implementing stakeholder engagement in an institution, particularly in institutions where groups had been excluded previously or there was no formula for dialogue. The report examines the issue of outcomes-based funding initiatives as a framework. This material is helpful to the research paper as it provide economic benefits of shared governance.
Kelderman, Eric (2016). Unshared governance. Chronicle of Higher Education.
This timely article focuses on several recent cases of a collapse in shared governance. At the University of North Carolina, the President was asked to resign though he was well-liked and respected by the faculty. The new President was appointed without input from faculty. A research paper focused on shared governance needs to look at breakdowns in shared governance in a variety of institutions and at all levels. The article also provides some of the trends facing higher education and thus governing boards creating the environments where bad decisions are made. A unique perspective of this article includes the role of politics and the impact since 2010 of more Republicans entering governance. For research on issues facing governance, this article provides new trends to consider with good examples.
Kiley, K. (2013). Back to the drawing board. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from
Kevin Kiley provided consistent coverage of the attempted closure of Sweet Briar College. This article raises significant governance issues throughout higher education and and nonprofit community providing a summary of some of the most egregious breakdowns of governance. The first example came from New York University where the faculty voted “no confidence” in its President. Examples are also provided from Harvard University. At NYU, the President did not allow faculty into decision making about expansion into an area of the city. Faculty comments in the article frame the importance of shared governance. The article also raises up issues at other Universities including University of Virginia, Duke, Emory, and Texas at Austin. Kiley also references the importance of working with community members impacted by a University. In the case of NYU, ironically, most of his faculty lived in Greenwich Village where a move was planned. Another example of disenfranchisement is around NYU’s expansion to Abu Dhabi. The audience of Inside Higher Ed includes all stakeholders in Colleges and Universities. The material covered is very relevant to an examination of governance as it provides some of the greatest breakdowns with faculty and community A strength of the article is a summary of trends in higher education that directly impact governance including globalization the the demand for online education. Kiley also draws out the changing role of faculty and trustees.. The article advocates strongly for changes in governance and could be considered biased from the perspective of a board member.
Kolowich, S. (2015). How Sweet Briar's board decided to close the college. The Chronicle Of
Higher Education. Retrieved from
In this article, a board member of Sweet Briar College shares the experience of facing closure. The author provides details of the final meeting in Washington, DC. The readers of the Chronicle of Higher Education are students, parents, faculty, staff, board members and the wider community associated with institutions of higher education. The article is helpful as it lays out the President and Board’s rationale for closure. This article inspired many Sweet Briar College alumnae to fight for the future.
Locke, S. The little college that could: Saving Sweet Briar. Case Currents. Council for the
Advancement and Support of Education. Retrieved from
This articles provides perspective from an alumna of Sweet Briar College who served on the committee to raise funds to fight the attempted closure. The article focuses on fundraising strategies and the critical role social media played in mobilizing stakeholders, managing message and raising funds. This article is helpful for the research paper as it provides examples from the college of trends which will be discussed in the paper. Locke provides a unique perspective on one of the reports the former board cited in its decision to close, the Donor Insight Study. The board called this a feasibility study; however, it was note. Through Locke’s former role as a staff member of the college and her connection to the consultants who authored the study, she was able to discount the study in question.
Mount Holyoke College (2016). Alumnae Association Mission Statement. About the Alumni
Association. Mount Holyoke College website. Retrieved from http://alumnae.mtholyoke.edu/about/
Given Mount Holyoke’s similarity to Sweet Briar College, the mission statement provides a helpful framework for the motives and benefits of having an independent alumni association. The reasons for the independence are reviewed within the document. Alumnae do serve on the board of trustees for the college as well, but an independent advocacy arm is felt important, particularly to treat alumnae equally regardless of capacity to give. The Mount Holyoke mission statement will be used in the section of the research paper focused on shared governance with alumni.
Nadler, D. P., Miller, M. T., & Modica, J. (2010). Organizational performance through staff
governance: improving shared governance in the higher education environment. E Journal Of Organizational Learning & Leadership, 8(1), 76-85.
This journal provides a unique focus on staff in shared governance. While faculty often have formal representation, staff often do not. In the closure of Sweet Briar College, staff had no leadership group on campus or in the suits. The paper also provides trend data on the increased number of staff serving students in colleges and universities today. This research and survey data will be helpful in a paper on stakeholder engagement at Sweet Briar College, especially since staff had no representation.
Resnick Pierce, S. (2016). Shared governance in crisis. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from
This essay on shared governance focuses on Mount Saint Mary’s and Suffolk University, both of which have faced crises in governance. Resnick provides examples of student protests at Antioch and Suffolk University. She also breaks down the President’s errors in trying to weed out students as breaking all norms of academic life in detail including misuse of the student newspaper, violating confidentiality of hiring decisions, disregarding faculty’s role in tenure and other egregious missteps. The President fired the Provost over disagreeing with him and appointed a Provost without input from the faculty. Resnick also examines Suffolk University and the board’s decision to fire the president without proper process. Resnick’s perspective as a former college president provides helpful context in understanding president and board challenges. For a paper on shared governance, this article provides important distinctions between president and board roles.
Rosenberg, B. (2014, July 29). Shared or divided governance. Inside Higher Ed.
In this op-ed, Brian Rosenberg, President of Macalester College, provides perspective on shared governance from the perspective of a college administrator. Mr. Rosenberg raises several important points for research on the top of shared governance. Rosenberg points out that being a full voting member of a governing board is not necessarily the way to achieve the proper input. The problems with shared governance are laid out in this perspective piece including sharing through division of labor rather than sharing through shared work. He argues that most faculty would not want to participate in some of the areas administrators must manage. Rosenberg also cites why faculty have trouble weighing in on governance including specialization. That same specialization is a trend with career administrators becoming college presidents instead of coming from the academic ranks. Mr. Rosenberg’s credibility on the topic is strengthened by his being a faculty member turned president. Solutions for governance are provided including tapping experienced faculty for governance, including a faculty member on the president’s senior staff, and providing training to interested faculty members.
Schoorman, D., & Acker-Hocevar, M. (2010). Viewing faculty governance within a social
justice framework: struggles and possibilities for democratic decision-making in higher education. Equity & Excellence In Education, 43(3), 310. doi:10.1080/10665684.2010.494493
This paper takes the concept of social justice usually applied to fairness within the classroom or society and uses it as a lens to view a campus community. Through that lens, the importance of shared governance to a democratic environment is emphasized. The readers of Equity & Excellence in Education include school administrators, diversity practitioners and student advocacy groups. The authors share their personal journey throughout the study including both positive and negative experiences. Emails, meeting minutes, reports and surveys served as a test for the authors regarding their process. While this article is written from the faculty perspective, it does provide helpful rubrics for any constituency group to consider. Throughout the article, the authors shared funny stories on the practical challenges of truly sharing governance. This piece is helpful to the research paper as it lays out specific suggestions for how to achieve social justice and shared governance including sharing credit, sharing committee leadership, and regular communication with stakeholders.
THOMASON, A. (2015). Resistance to Sweet Briar's closure mounts. Chronicle Of Higher
Education, 61(30), A6.
This article highlights the lawsuits filed in an effort to stop the closure of Sweet Briar College. The lawsuits highlight the stakeholders of the College. Students sued for breach of enrollment contract. Faculty filed for breach of employment contract. Alumnae supported the County Attorney of Amherst, Virginia who argued that the original Trust was being violated. The article is helpful to the research topic of shared governance as it highlights the groups that should be represented in a shared governance model.