Message from the Dean on Shared Governance at the Krieger School

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to you concerning something about which I care greatly: shared governance in higher education. Since assuming the role of Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in January, in fact, my priority has been to establish such a body for our school. My basic conviction is that, in a university context, major decisions about academic priorities need to be made jointly, by faculty and administration. We can do great things if we work together and do so in a transparent way. Transparency is key to any form of governance in academia, and sharing that governance requires a conversation involving both faculty and administrators from the start.  

Recently, the Governance Sub-committee of the Homewood Faculty Assembly proposed a charter for a “Faculty Senate” representing all of the faculty of the Krieger School. Article VI, Section 1 of that charter mandates financial and administrative support from the Dean’s office (‘The Senate shall have a budget and the staff assistance needed for the proper performance of its duties, provided by the Dean’). In a conversation with members of the Sub-committee, I told them that, since in my role as Dean I have a fiduciary responsibility for the KSAS budget, I would need to have it reviewed by counsel before I could provide such financial and administrative resources. I have now received that review, and in light of its findings, I cannot support the proposal as it now stands. “As it now stands” is a crucial qualification here: much of what the Governance Sub-committee proposed is positive and gives us a firm basis for working together. Indeed, I appreciate and value the work they have done.

So, I’d like to do three things in this letter: [1] share two key findings from counsel, [2] enunciate some basic principles that I believe should inform a body that shares governance, and [3] propose a way forward.

Key findings from counsel: 

  1. The other governance bodies within Johns Hopkins University resembling the proposed Faculty Senate are bodies that share governance:
    “Schools within Johns Hopkins have various faculty bodies to carry out the general principle of shared governance.. .They exist within a structure of approval and delegated authority from the Board, to the President, to the Provost and the Deans, and ultimately to the faculty.  For instance, the Homewood Academic Council was created through a charge by the University’s President, see Presidential Charge to the Homewood Academic Council,; the School of Medicine’s Faculty Senate (then called the Medical School Council) was initially established by the President, and later the Senate’s Charter was ratified by the Senate itself as well as by the Dean of the School and the Advisory Board of the Medical Faculty, see SOM Faculty Senate Charter,; the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s various governance structures are detailed in its formal Policy and Procedural Memorandum on Administration and Governance.” [Office of the General Counsel]
  2. Governance bodies within the schools of John Hopkins have a structure and role agreed upon by both faculty and administration: 
    “Shared governance requires such a collective agreement about the basic constitution of a faculty body, and at a School level, the creation of additional faculty governance bodies should be done by the faculty in conjunction with the Dean, who operates as the ultimate leader of the School, and through whom the faculty have influence via delegated authority from the Board, to President, to Provost, to Dean.”  [Office of the General Counsel]

While the Governance Sub-committee consulted with me and others in my office at the end of the process, there was little in the way of collaboration and nothing in the way of recognition that the proposed body, to be effective, must sit within existing structures of the university, as do other governance bodies at Johns Hopkins. I understand and respect that the Governance Sub-committee worked hard and at length on their proposal. But shared governance, to be effective and sustainable, needs to be built together, with faculty and administration working hand in hand. 

Some basic principles:

  • Any school of Arts and Sciences is like a symphony: there are many voices with many different roles, all of which combine and work together toward a goal. In our case, this goal is the pursuit of truth through scholarship, a mission that radiates outward through our teaching and service. This mission, accordingly, involves every member of our community, from undergraduate students, to graduate students, to postdoctoral scholars, to faculty.
  • I am in agreement with the HFA and its Governance Sub-committee that the Krieger School needs a shared governance body, one in which faculty can work together with the Dean’s office sustainably – that is, not just with me, but also with my successors in this role. But I differ from the Governance Sub-committee and the charter they have crafted in my vision of how such a body can and must be effective.
  • To be effective and sustainable, a shared governance body in the Krieger School should represent the disciplines as we understand them, and thus include equal representation of faculty from the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Tenured faculty should constitute the majority of faculty members on the Krieger’s School’s governing body, and non-tenure track faculty should also have significant representation in its membership. There should also be representation from our undergraduate and graduate students. Finally, the Council of Chairs, itself a very important body within the School, should be represented as well.
  • Tenured faculty must play a central role in shared governance in the Krieger School because they are the custodians and overseers of academic programs over time and offer valuable, long-term input. Faculty who are tenured at Johns Hopkins attain that status after intense, critical review of their scholarship by peers in the academic world outside of Johns Hopkins. Tenured faculty members are also expected to be part of the Johns Hopkins community for a long time, and that expectation comes with responsibilities. They must play a leadership role when it comes to matters of academic policy – policies that will often outlive any given administration. Non-tenure-track faculty also play a crucial role in the Krieger School: they teach a great number of our students, run labs, and administer many of our majors and programs. They are crucial members of our community, and we could not do what we do without them.  

The shared governance body I envision would play a critical role in decision-making within KSAS and would grow in authority over time. We need to determine—collectively—what authority the body would have. For example, I can see members making crucial decisions about the ongoing reforms of our undergraduate education. They might also have oversight of our numerous interdisciplinary programs. 

A way forward: 

Faculty and the administration should discuss and agree on the form of a body for shared governance and, in particular, 1) what the exact proportion of tenured to non-tenure-track faculty in its membership should be and 2) what form student participation in such a body, both undergraduate and graduate, should take. These two key concerns – the proportion of tenured and non-tenure-track faculty and the importance of student representation – are vital, given the function that an effective and sustainable shared governance body needs to serve. Neither was addressed in the Faculty Senate charter proposed by the Governance Sub-Committee. We must now address them.

Shared governance is of such importance that it is worth taking the time to build an effective and sustainable body together. I am confident that this will lead to a new evolution in how we think about ourselves. I would like to have such a body in place for the Fall 2021 semester. I therefore propose that my office convenes different constituencies over the summer. These include: the members of the HFA Governance Sub-committee who have primary appointments in the Krieger School, the Faculty Advisory Committee, and KSAS members of the Homewood Academic Council. My proposal is to work over the summer to think together about the composition of this body and its mandate. Together, we can create an effective and sustainable shared governance body for the school.

We are a community. We have a productive, collaborative, and transparent future before us if we work together. I am fully committed to shared governance, and I hope you will join me in this project.


Christopher S. Celenza, James B. Knapp Dean
Professor of History and Classics
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences