Letter to the Editor: Shared governance essential to MSSU

Dr. William Kumbier, Professor of English & Philosophy

Crossing my path somewhat like a black cat on the last day of classes, The Chart’s Dec. 7 editorial, “Priorities among faculty, staff seem misplaced,” demands a response, even or especially at a time when both faculty and students have worked very hard and are looking forward to the end of finals week and the semester break.

The editorial clearly implies, one, that MSSU faculty are more concerned with their own pay than with their students and, two, that faculty’s interest in shared governance is misplaced, distracting them from their real responsibility, which is to students, the “backbone of any institute of higher education.”  

What the editorial completely misses or ignores is the extent to which faculty’s interest and stake in shared governance arises precisely out of concern for our students.

First, on the issue of pay and cost of living raises:  it is true that it was hard on MSSU faculty to go for over four years, from 2008 to this year, without a cost of living raise.  

In the first two years of this salary “freeze,” however, I for one, and also many of my colleagues, were ready and willing to make this sacrifice for the sake of the University’s survival.  

The stakes were that high, we were told.  

However, as the University restored its reserves and began spending on new administrative positions, consulting firms and various other projects around campus, while simultaneously cutting back on full-time, long-term faculty positions as well as faculty salaries, faculty began to be justifiably concerned about how the University’s resources were being apportioned and wanted to have some say in that.

I, and many of my colleagues, believe that students deserve the best faculty Missouri Southern can attract.  

If students are the “backbone” of our school, they deserve the best support and nourishment we can give them in the classroom.  

We believe that, in order to provide that sustenance, we should commit to policies such as hiring full-time, highly qualified faculty for periods longer than one year at a time, aiming for class sizes that afford our students the individual attention MSSU has long claimed to offer and balancing the economies offered by distance learning with the undeniable benefits of face-to-face interaction.  

Faculty meet and engage with students every day they teach: any teacher who is conscientiously doing that knows that it is impossible to do it for long without developing deep care and respect for students and without making a significant, personal investment in what happens in each and every class.

It’s no secret that faculty and administration at MSSU have had differences over how to realize crucial educational goals.  

But the consequence of that fact is that both faculty and administration should be engaged in deciding how our students can get what they deserve, what they want, need and pay for.  

The only way that can happen is through shared governance.  

Shared governance, in other words, is not a “distraction” for faculty from what they “should” be doing:  it is, or should be, a vital pathway to providing the richest educational experience we can for our students.