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Faculty Link: Take the opportunity to engage in democracy wherever you can

October 30, 2020   /   by Shannon Davis

Voting has never been more important than it is now.

We’ve experienced a year like nothing else in our lifetime, with the global pandemic, an economic downturn, and corresponding fundamental changes to our lives and livelihoods.

Being involved matters. The decisions have high stakes.

With all these challenges, it’s more important than ever for all of us to participate in the process and make our voices heard.

In that spirit and for that reason, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution encouraging people to participate in Election 2020. You can read it here.

In reflecting on this resolution, I am reminded that there are many items on the ballot this year. Indeed, every November there are opportunities for voters to make decisions that will affect those in their local communities.

The same can be said for the democratic process here at Mason. The Faculty Senate garners the most attention regarding decisions affecting faculty and students.

However, there are other avenues where faculty, staff and students hold their peers and administrators accountable. As chair of the Faculty Senate, I believe that the Senate must not be the only place where democratic processes are upheld.

I believe that the university is stronger when faculty, students, staff, and administrators see our work as effective when we embrace the tension of our partnership. Shared governance necessitates that people are both at the table and are authentically heard in the decision-making process.

This is my call to action to members of the Mason community. You have a role to play at Mason. Here are some examples of where you can and should make your voice heard:

  • The vibrant college/school faculty assemblies or councils whereby faculty partner with administrators to make decisions about critical issues that include workload and promotion and tenure guidelines. How well colleges/schools function is determined by the effectiveness of the democratic processes in those units.
  • Local academic units also operate under those same procedures, with bylaws and procedures for evaluation resulting from faculty deliberation and democratic governance processes.
  • Our undergraduate and graduate students have elected bodies that afford them the opportunity to make recommendations to the faculty and administration regarding next steps in moving the university forward.

As we embrace democracy in our country, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and in our localities, I urge all Mason community members to embrace the democratic processes that underpin our own shared governance.

I urge faculty to share their thoughts and ideas with their Senators on issues coming before the Senate.

I also urge faculty to actively participate in their college/school assembly or council, to both show up and to speak out. Continue to do so in your local academic units as well. And continue to listen to our student representatives when they to engage in the democratic processes whereby they provide authentic input into governance decisions across the university.

This is why shared governance is essential at Mason. Shared governance does not mean that everyone gets what they want in the final decision, but it does mean that we honor democratic governance processes by authentically listening to our community partners while making decisions.

Echoing my Faculty Senate colleagues, I encourage all Mason community members to be informed and to be engaged in the governance process that is designed to move our local communities, the commonwealth, and the country forward. Be safe and be well.