Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Council and Management

What is Senate's relationship to Council?

That CSU has an Academic Senate is a statutory requirement of the 1989 Act that established the University. And the principal functions of the Academic Senate are defined by a 2005 NSW government By-law (see below). This means that the existence and principal functions of Senate are legislated by government. Clearly, therefore, should CSU or its Council wish to alter the constitution of Academic Senate, Council would need successfully to lobby the NSW government. Hence, with the exception of the Vice-Chancellor (who is required to be on Academic Senate by the 1989 Act), the membership of the Academic Senate and the subsidiary functions are delegations from Council and are thus determined by its authority.

What is Senate's relationship with Management?

There is a qualitative difference between Senate and executive management. One has a collegial methodology. The other is hierarchical. But both apply to the whole University. This means that Senate is not just another player in the management area. Senate represents the scholarly community's collective academic judgment on all issues facing CSU. To work effectively in both management and in Senate requires two markedly different roles or 'hats.' You can be a manager but also an academic, and have different views in both of those roles, and that's what Senate is for.

The strength of Senate depends on the power of collegiality that it focuses on the key challenges and opportunities that shape the destiny of CSU. True collegiality arises from individual self-determination, aggregated into collective decisions. Research on effective decision-making has now confirmed the aggregation of individual views to be not only the fairest way to operate, but also the most effective, and generative of the most strategically-useful ideas. Corporations are adopting collegial methods at pace, for this very reason. Hence the success of a committee meeting such as Academic Senate is not a matter of how well or badly 'we worked together as a group': as is held by the mythology behind psychological research on 'groupthink,' and statements like 'all meetings are a waste of time.' The measure of success is how well the committee has aggregated individual views into a collective view. Other than Senate and its committees, there is no comprehensive mechanism to do this in the University.

Hence the current external review of Academic Senate is proposing to expand Senate's horizons beyond a quality-assuring role, to discuss all relevant mainstream operational issues in its distinctively collective way. Given the qualitative difference between executive management and academic governance, this is not to challenge the existing power structures. It is to ensure a collective view is added to the University's deliberation on all key issues, and thereby to fulfil Senate's legislated brief (see 'Functions' below). To this end, we need to make certain that we have the best possible ways of bringing staff views together for deliberation and decision-making by Senate – including the use of social networking sites like Yammer.

In a nutshell, academic governance is a different kind of process from that of management -- but both apply to the whole university. The two different kinds of responsibility should be independent of each other. Hence they cannot be partitioned or delegated from management to Senate or vice versa. Senate's specific vocation is to apply a methodology of collective deliberation to all the same facts that management methodology considers as grist for executive action. While not a perfect analogy, there are some parallels between Academic Senate and parliament. Both Academic Senate and parliamentary Senate collectively assess proposals coming from the executive in government. But Academic Senate should also be an instigator of new proposals and policies for the University; it does not just assess proposals from executive management.