Governance summit

These are my notes from a governance meeting on Friday 29 June 2012 that brought together the cabinet, the council of chairs, the deans, and all directors. Nothing below should be taken as a direct quote, my notes are not nowhere near that accurate. All errors are mine and mine alone. Items in square brackets are my inserts and interpolations to provide either information I recall but did not capture in my notes or other contextual information.This blog entry is primarily for my own future reference, but the contents of the meeting are an important historical note in the ongoing history of the college.


President: Issues have developed, arisen, as we have sought to improve participation and communication, broaden involvement. Role definitions were unclear, there were some who felt marginalized. Committees were confused in some cases. In May directors sent a letter expressing their concerns. This meeting arises from these concerns.

There were some concerns as to the diagram created by Dana. Messy but great. Arrows all over the place. Just a model for discussion. The diagram had many errors and omissions. There were questions as to what process the diagram went through for approval. The diagram is not an approved diagram. [Just an illustration of some the lines of communication - not authority - in the participative governance model.]

Another concern expressed was that, "Committees are not offices but are acting like one." There is a misunderstanding and that is what we seek to clarify. What are roles of the PRC [or any other committee]? Committees make [non-binding] recommendations. The cabinet advises the president. The council of chairs provides for [inter-committee] communication. The council can also make [non-binding] recommendations.

Where do the directors fit in? Directors are implementors. But how do they know what to implement?

RP: The PRC works through VPA. So Comptroller is informed through Joe [of the recommendations].

President: That is the [core issue]. The directors are out of the direct loop.

DCR: If a committee has a need for information [from my office], I will provide it.

DMFS: I am an ex-officio [non-voting] member of the Facilities and Campus Environment [FCE] committee. I provide information, the committee provides recommendations.

KH: I look to the VPs as the communication links to the directors. We [CAC] links to VPIA, DAP, VTC. Committees are well linked to the VPs. How do you - the directors - and the VPs communicate? The committees are communicating with the VPs.

President: The vice presidents communicate with each other in cabinet. Then they communicate with their own directors. Committees have good relations with the VPs and other committees. Can the process be strengthened? What of communication with the directors?

[A third party joins the teleconference, the second party was Lourdes in Yap. Third does not say who they are.] I have recommended the establishment of a mid-level management team. Parallels the council of chairs. Brings directors together. How to connect the midlevels to the committees.

DAP: I am fortunate, KH and I talk.

VPSSA: FCE chair talks regularly with DMFS.

President: [Recaps Block C recommendations process as example of communication and participation.] [The committees] are not consistent in membership or who is on those committees. Members wonder who they represent. You wear a [unit] hat, but you also wear a college hat. Are there ways to close the gaps?

VPIEQA: I envisioned management teams making decisions, kicking those decisions to the relevant committee, the committee then providing input and recommendations to the management team, and then the decision of the management team being passed up to the cabinet by the vice president.

Comptroller: All committees serve at the pleasure of the president. In the old model we had Terms of Reference [TOR]. Membership was appointed by the president. The president would place the best possible people on a committee. This was the structure. The first change was membership. Too few were making decisions. Only the membership should have changed, not the TORs. Changes were not discussed. There was the introduction of terminology, the introduction of diagrams. Which TORs do we follow? Why are the directors disconnected?

I have the responsibility but the authority rests with the committee [committee chairs vocally and visually disagree with the statement].

President: This is where the disconnect exists.

MM: We made the Comptroller an ex-officio member. Maybe some other business office staff wanted to be a member. We are, at times, a ship without a map, we need the Comptroller.

VPIEQA: The committee is advisory, [not deciding, not decision making], and provides input. There is a concern of free/open speech. [So a committee might need to meet without the presence of the director].

KH: Directors are sent the agenda, can attend, can contribute. The door is always open. [Other committee chairs visually nod in agreement.]

DAP: Shame on me if my people cannot speak freely in front of me.

President: You can see the two sides. I can see the concerns, but I also concur with DAP. But I come from a place where people did not want administration on committees, it was ingrained in the culture. I would like to be an institution where we can speak openly in front of your administrators, where we work together. Where the directors, faculty, and staff are all working together, all communicating.

Committees can advise directors.

I started the council of chairs. The middle management team is a new piece to fill a gap that exists. [Recaps the parking lot information dissemination process]. Does any committee chair think that they are making [binding] decisions? [Chairs visually indicate that they do not think they are making decisions.]

Does any director think a committee is running their area?

I do not want us to to feel divided. We can work together respectfully.

VPSSA: Meaningful dialog [is occurring.] We are getting it done.

President: I do not want to diminish the importance of the committees. Directors should value that they have a committee to turn to. I think chairs see their role as a supportive role. Committees should be innovative, forward thinking, anticipate issues, be proactive. When did this group [indicating everyone in the room and on the teleconference - all directors, all vice presidents, two deans] meet before?

DAP: Never. History is being made.

President: [Aside to NE: "Get that down!" followed by a smile.]

RP: We are going to look at the the Terms of Reference [TOR] and invite or reword to include directors.

[A common format guided by a rubric will be developed.]

KH: [To all] Be proactive. Committee meetings are open. Anyone can come in. We have to get up and walk over and the information. Communicate. [Do not just sit inside the four walls of your office and say "No one communicates with me." Get up, get out, talk. I walk over and talk to DAP regularly.]

DCR: When directors were disincluded [from the committees in the original TORs fall 2011], the directors felt cut out.

VPSSA: We have a few months behind us. Student services has two committees, [yet] I feel there is a missing link to another aspect [of student life]. So I created the Student Life Advisory Council. I think student services is missing out on [the benefits of having a] committee structure. Because of that I created the [Student Life] Advisory Council, task forces, to handle the gap left by dissolution of the student services committee. Would this warrant the return of the student services committee?

Comptroller: We have this different understanding. Because the TORs are still changing. No written guidelines and procedures. What do we follow? The old procedures [old TORs] or the new [TORs]? [This author is puzzled: there were new TORs crafted fall 2011 and they will be reviewed next academic year, but none are "still changing" nor "in flux." All provide written guidelines. As with any document, all can be improved. In FCE the new TOR was based directly on the pre-existing TOR which was crafted by the former FCE committee under the then leadership of the director.]

NE: There are questions. Will the new TORs all follow a common format? What about questions such as membership limits? Seats are partitioned out how? [Members represent who?]

VPIEQA: We know we had to change, the change itself changes [and evolves]. [We could not keep doing what we were doing, that landed us on warning and then probation.]

President: There is a lot of goodwill. There are a lot of places where this kind of meeting couldn't happen. A couple of closing thoughts. I welcome the development of a middle management team. In terms of committees, I am energized about the coming year. Maybe directors return to committees, maybe even as voting members.

Comptroller: Can a vice president overrule a committee?

DLL: Not just a vice president, a director. Not overrule: committees make non-binding recommendations. A director can simply decide to not accept the recommendation. [In my notes at this point: Comptroller's words raise an interesting implicit point: if a director votes, then she/he shows her/his "hand" - shows their position. The committee might be more useful to the director if the director is non-voting since the director has the final say in any case. The director is the recipient of the recommendation. They take the recommendation into consideration and then make a decision. No need to vote: the director makes the decision.]

[?]: Who do you represent?

MM: In the past we knew our constituency. We were appointed by the faculty senate. I represented faculty. We knew who we represented. Now members seem to represent only themselves.

[How are matters brought into the committee?]

MM: Faculty bring things to us, they approach us. We do not have to keep asking them, they come to us. People approach committee members, [members whom they feel comfortable with.]

President: Each of us represents the best interests of the college. [We each wear a division hat and a college hat. When making recommendations one should put on their college hat.]

[VPIEQA: The best interest of our students.]

Comptroller: I think that is correct, however, old model all chairs of committees were members [my notes appear to be incomplete here]. Clarity of roles and who you represented [existed].

President: All minutes are available on the Wiki.

DAP: A wiki post does not mean the minutes are communicated.

[Earlier in the meeting, lost to my notes, was a statement that one must first communicate, second communicate the information again, and third communicate yet again. Bob Nelson, a founding board member of the National Association for Employee Recognition (NAER), noted "Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more."]

VPCRE: Get the agenda out to all staff and faculty.

KH: We have to be proactive

SM: [There is a need to provide enough time to review documents.] [Discussion of HR personnel manual modifications and allowance of time to review. The author was apparently the first to turn in their signed acknowledgement of receipt form.]

VPIEQA: The idea was that the national campus divisions should distribute their faculty among the committees. [Other units should do the same.]

President: Communication behaviors [are important], [members should be] carrying information back to their units, keeping the broader community informed.

DCR: It could be too much email if we all inform everybody. [Could be redundant to information disseminated by college calendar.]

[Author's note: Amazon.com has learned that good customer service includes over-communicating with the customer. At each step of the ordering/shipping process Amazon sends an email to the customer. Over-communication is far preferable to under-communication. Scanning and deleting emails using a "touch once and act or delete" approach permits one to efficiently handle email. And the Wiki is, as alluded to by DAP, not as effective at communicating broadly beyond those on the committee. Committee members might be regularly logging into their section of the Wiki, but other faculty and staff are not. And the students certainly are not.]

In a post-meeting discussion in the hallway one director noted that they did not want a voting seat on the committee for their area. They concurred with the card game metaphor of preferring not to show their hand at the table, to not in some way bias the voting and decisions of the committee since they are the one who makes the actual decision. Authority to decide rests with the director and the administrative chain above the director, responsibility lies too with the director and those in the chain above.

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