Shared Governance Update

October 15, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

In May 2021, Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights, in a conversation with FSEC Chair Arthur Wilson, called for a joint discussion about the meaning of shared governance. Based on this, the FSEC, in consultation with the chairs of the Faculty Senate standing committees and members of some standing committees, developed a document entitled “Strengthening Shared Governance at GW: Critical Steps Forward VERSION 2.0” (rev. August 28, 2021), which was presented and discussed at the September 2021 Faculty Senate meeting. In addition, FSEC members laid the groundwork for meaningful faculty participation in selecting a new president by working with the schools to prepare the Faculty Consultative Committee slate for Assembly approval prior to the beginning of the presidential search.

At the same time, the Board of Trustees worked with shared governance experts formerly with the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to understand and propose a “reset” of shared governance at GW.  The Board of Trustees also selected an Interim President. Immediately prior to making a public announcement of the selection, Chair Speights provided FSEC an opportunity to review the President Designee’s credentials and to meet with him. Although the FSEC expressed some reservations (from a shared governance perspective) regarding the process by which the Interim President was selected, we are all reassured by the President Designee’s experience and qualifications as a proven academic leader and we all look forward to supporting his tenure at GW.

Shared governance has proven challenging in the past few years, which is why we believe now is an opportune time for building consensus among faculty, administration, and trustees around the meaning and expectations of shared governance at GW.  We believe that a clearer understanding of, and commitment to, shared governance will strengthen GW’s academic mission, will help our university develop more positive momentum, and will attract a high-quality pool of Presidential candidates. Hence, with an eye toward the future, the FSEC, the Faculty Senate, the administration, and the Board of Trustees will be working together during this academic year to jointly develop an understanding of shared governance that might inform recommendations and/or proposals to clarify or modify university policies and practices around shared governance.

With this message, we would like to update you on the process we will undertake over the next several months, with the assistance of facilitators (with expertise in shared governance):

  1. The development and implementation of a shared-governance survey of faculty, administration, and trustees;
  2. The joint selection of a task force (co-chaired by a member of the faculty, the Interim Provost, and a trustee, and appointed after nominations from each group) to hold a series of town halls with the university community (to be conducted both before and after the survey is administered);
  3. The hosting of a retreat of FSEC members, administrators, and trustees to discuss the results of the shared governance survey, followed by a retreat for the Task Force to begin its work;
  4. The development of a set of recommendations – provided to the trustees by the task force and endorsed by the Faculty Senate and administration – that may include defining rights, responsibilities, and accountability as well as appropriate changes to GW’s key governing documents, along with recommendations for how all parties will jointly strengthen shared governance at GW; and
  5. The review and consideration for adoption of these recommendations by the Board of Trustees in May 2022.

Faculty, administration, and the Board of Trustees have mutually assured each other of the sincere will to arrive at a common understanding of shared governance by a constructive process which respects rights and obligations of all, not only in its incarnation in procedures and rules, but in particular in the spirit of all participants, now and in the future.  Together, we look forward to strengthening shared governance at GW and will stay in touch with you for your feedback and input.


Grace E. Speights, Chair, Board of Trustees
Christopher Alan Bracey, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Arthur Wilson, Chair, Faculty Senate Executive Committee