Governance History

Governance at Pennsylvania College of Technology has had an interesting evolution throughout the years. From the early, less formal system to the present-day more intricate process, the institution continues to fine-tune its governance structure. Because the governance history of the early years was never formally documented, the following description of those years is based on the anecdotal remembrances of various faculty who worked here during those initial decades.* For simplicity's sake, the account of Penn College's governance system will be divided into three categories: 1966 to 1971, 1971 to 1985, and 1985 to the present.

According to several veteran faculty members who began working here in the mid 1960s, there was a loose governance format in place during the years 1966-1971. This system encompassed both faculty and administration, but not staff. There was no formal organization or leadership in this structure. In fact, meetings were sporadically held with faculty and/or administration present. This collegial, informal approach seemed to satisfy both the faculty and the administration at the time; consequently, there was no effort made to introduce a more rigid, structured system. Via this faculty/administration unit, much of the College's decision-making took place. Academic, as well as work-related, issues were all voted on by this group, and there was very much a team approach to solving problems.

In the late 1960s governance at the College was formally addressed as part of a Middle States Self-study. That process resulted in the College seriously examining roles and responsibilities which, in turn, resulted in the formation of a number of committees, and in the formation of a large governing body comprised of anyone who was faculty or administrator. This new system had no by-laws to govern it. Robert's Rules of Order was the only official source followed. At some point during this period, "the Faculty," as the faculty organization at that time was termed, began to meet on a regular basis. It appears that the years of the late '60s and early '70s were the time when the dichotomy between the faculty and administration first began to ensue.

The years 1971-1985 enveloped a number of noteworthy events that ultimately led to the formation of the governance system we have today. In 1971 the educational association, formally known as WACCEA, was officially recognized as the bargaining unit between the faculty and the Williamsport Area Community College administration. It was not until November 1973, however, that the first contract was settled as a result of a strike during the first three weeks of that month. This strike further widened the rift between the faculty and administration and perhaps ultimately helped create an "us vs. them" mentality on campus. The years 1973-1977 clearly demonstrated the mounting tensions and also saw a new form of College government developing. One faculty member recalls faculty and staff meeting in what is now the Academic Center Auditorium, at the behest of the administration, merely to listen. No one had any voice or authority in the matters being presented to them.

The governance system established as a result of the Middle States Self-study in the late '60s was fast falling by the wayside, and the College administration increasingly continued to exercise its power to govern and make decisions. As the years progressed, discontent with the status quo escalated. Finally, in late November 1977 Dr. Feddersen, the College's president at the time, appointed a Governance and Decision-Making Task Force to review the defunct governance system and to recommend an alternative. The resulting recommendation of this committee was that a College Senate should be established and should take the place of the old ineffective governance system. This body was to involve all the employees and students in the decision-making process at the College. The committee further developed a list of guidelines for the College Senate to operate under, as well as suggested that the following College committees be created:

  • Budget Committee
  • Facilities Safety and Supporting Services Committee
  • Faculty, Staff, and Administration Development Committee
  • Employment, Promotion, and Evaluation Committee
  • Student Affairs Committee
  • Admissions, Record, and Registration Committee
  • Calendar Committee
  • Social Committee
  • Supporting Services Committee
  • Scholarship and Student Loan Committee
  • Curriculum and Instruction Committee
  • Academic Policy Committee
  • Employment, Promotion, and Tenure Committee

Despite the efforts of the Task Force and much to their consternation, this new College Senate system of governance was never brought to fruition.

There were undoubtedly many reasons that led to the demise of the early governance structures, both in effect and suggested. However, perhaps the overriding reason why governance was allowed to die was the shift in thinking nationwide toward governance. During the mid to late '70s college governance systems were losing popularity in academia. The top-down approach was the management system used in most workplaces, and the academic environment seemed to be falling into line with this philosophy. Consequently, this management style thrived at Penn College until the early to mid '80s.

During the early '80s the Williamsport Area Community College hired a new president, Dr. Robert Breuder. Dr. Breuder quickly established himself as an aggressive, goal-oriented leader. In 1982-84, and within a short period of Dr. Breuder's hiring, a Middle States Self-Study/Long Range Planning team was formed to prepare for the Middle States accreditation process. In partial response to Dr. Breuder, and with the knowledge that Middle States was once more emphasizing governance at colleges, the Self-Study team proposed as one of its major recommendations the formal creation of a governance system for the College. With the blessing of Middle States, the College began the process of organizing the governance structure we have in place today.

Beginning in 1985 the College seriously began working on the formulation of a new governance system. Its goal was "to develop a well-defined and effective representative governance structure and process by which the College's formal internal decision-making becomes more collegial." The initial step in this process, after a literature search about governance, was the formation of a Governance Steering Committee, whose members were elected/appointed and included faculty, administration, and staff. The Committee's charge was to examine the structure and operation of existing College committees at the time and to review/analyze representative governance structures at other colleges. After these examinations were completed, the Committee was then required to propose to the College president a governance system of councils, committees, and/or consultative groups.

Early in the process, the first writing of the College's governance philosophy statement occurred. After the first draft was written, it was sent to the College community for comments and suggestions. Upon receipt of those, the Steering Committee finalized the philosophy statement. Closely following the creation of a philosophy statement, the Steering Committee began investigating the governance structures at Pennsylvania community colleges. The list was finally narrowed; and in a memorandum dated February 25, 1986, from Robert Bowers, a member of the Steering Committee, to the other Steering Committee members, Dr. Bowers delineated the final list of eight colleges that would be analyzed:

  1. Reading Area Community College
  2. Harrisburg Area Community College
  3. Luzerne County Community College
  4. Northampton County Area Community College
  5. Bucks County Community College
  6. Delaware County Community College
  7. Philadelphia Community College
  8. Lake Region Community College, Devil's Lake

Each college's governance system was examined and common characteristics were identified.

The next milestone in the governance creation process was the development of governance committees. This procedure was initiated with a survey to members of existing College committees. Questions on this survey were designed to ascertain whether existing committees were effective in what they were charged to do and to determine whether members felt their committee's focus should be included in the new governance structure. The net result of this exercise was the creation of the following:

  • five standing governance committees, whose charge was to investigate and analyze issues related to the specific committee responsibilities and, when appropriate, recommend action to the College Council. These committees were:
    • Curriculum (15 members)
    • Academic Standards and Issues (15 members)
    • Student Affairs ( 15 members)
    • Human Resources (14 members)
    • Long Range Planning (14 members)
  • College Council, comprised of 26 members, whose responsibility was to act upon reports from the five standing committees; to forward reports, proposals, and recommendations to the College president; and to receive reports and recommendations from the president.

Hand-in-hand with the formation of the committees and of the College Council came the formulation of the Governance System By-laws. These By-laws were direct and specific, thereby helping in the planning and execution of actions in a responsible and timely manner. The By-laws were also general, allowing for imaginative interpretation to help direct action. With the By-laws established and the committees and College Council in place, all that remained before placing the new system in operation was the election of a College Council chair. In August 1986, after a campus-wide election, the first College Council chair took office; and the new governance structure was formally activated. Since that time, the system has continued, for the most part, to perform within its original format. There have been minor modifications to the By-laws over the years, but the overall purpose and function of the system remains intact: to provide all constituencies on campus a voice in the decision-making process.

Special thanks to these people for providing their accounts of the early governance systems:

  • Jim Logue
  • Dan Doyle
  • Phil Landers
  • Bonnie Taylor
  • Rich Weilminster
  • Bill Ealer

Information about the formation of the present governance system came from the memoranda of the Governance Steering Committee, December 1985 - August 1986.

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