Now it is true that professors, acting through representative bodies such as our Faculty Senate, have little formal authority. But as recent events demonstrate, when the faculty feels passionately about an issue and unites in expressing its views, it can exert significant informal power, which the board ignores at its peril. Moreover, many faculty have connections with influential people in both the private and public sectors, which facilitate grants, academic-business partnerships and philanthropy for their schools.
Greater engagement between faculty and governing boards could help to further our mutual interests in improving the university. For one thing, a university’s faculty are a great source of expertise on many matters within the board’s purview. U-Va., for example, has plenty of experts on higher ed at our education and public policy schools. We have faculty with expertise in online learning, an area about which our board expressed concern. Our business schools have experts on strategic planning, crisis management and accounting. We have a law school with experts in corporate and non-profit governance. The list goes on.