A strong model of shared governance means a commitment to decentralized decision making, open discussions, and appropriate timelines of action.
Developing and integrating the model takes time and devotion to the cause. It takes work by all stakeholder groups involved. And finding the right balance of power among stakeholders at a constantly changing organization, like a University, presents a unique challenge, especially for those in charge.
At a University, structures and defined roles can help compensate for the overturn of students and the fast pace of change in the world outside of academia.
Encourage students to have an active role in committee meetings. Allow your student leaders to sit in on important meetings including those outside of committee meetings. Invite them to the table as much as possible; if you think a student might make the room feel uncomfortable by what they have to say then you probably need them there. If you think the student will be disruptive then have a conversation with them before. Get to know them as a person and let them get to know you. When we see each other as people first before we see each other as titles the connection and logic doesn’t come from a textbook or a consultant but rather years of experiences, interactions, and knowledge.
Engage the wider community in the discussion and then have a plan to breakdown that feedback before moving forward. If your timeline allows time for community feedback but doesn’t allow you time to take the community opinions into consideration what are you really providing them other than a false sense of engagement in the process of shared governance. Decision makers should be able to prove that they have done everything they can to take into consideration those that are currently served by the institution.
If you truly want community engagement to be beneficial to your planning and implementation process you have to go in with an open mind rather than a predetermined decision.
Shared governance can be slow and painful but it helps build a more inclusive, engaged, and self-empowering community.