Standard 6 -- Governance & Administration
MSU Billings’ system of governance involves and depends upon active participation of different constituencies, from faculty to staff to students. Those entities are encouraged to engage in various conversations and decision-making processes that will help the University achieve its vision.
Throughout its eight decades, MSU Billings has worked to encourage and provide varied opportunities for leadership at all levels, and committees are structured to provide broad representation and input from throughout the University.
As part of the Montana University System (MUS), MSU Billings complies with policies and procedures as mandated by the Montana Board of Regents. Although independent for most of its history, the University became affiliated with the Montana State University segment of the state system in 1994, with reorganization of the entire Montana University System. Other units of the Montana State University system of the MUS are located in Havre, Great Falls and Bozeman. It was also during the 1994 reorganization that MSU Billings assumed governance and administration of the former Billings Vo-Tech Center, which is now the MSU Billings College of Technology.
While there are certain business and operational benefits to the reorganization, the affiliation also decreased the independence and autonomy of MSU Billings. Most, if not all, of MSU Billings operations are subject to oversight and approval through Montana State University at Bozeman — computer operating systems, legislative initiatives, the online delivery system, personnel decisions, curricular revisions, etc. MSU Billings also submits shared governance decisions for Montana State University approval, which is a necessary preliminary step to submission for BOR/OCHE approval.
Summary & Analysis - Strengths
- MSU Billings has a long, established history and commitment to shared governance. The University has increased the number of advisory boards and is assuring varied representation on each.
- MSU Billings faculty control the governance of academic programs and share the governance of their working conditions with administration.
- Both MSU Billings staff and students have senates to assure their participation in University affairs.
- Program data and surveys are used to make decisions on program revision, faculty load assignments, workplace environment changes and as well as to assess student satisfaction.
- The strength of the University’s reputation in the community allows for growing partnerships and relationships for advisory boards.
- Each College has its own advisory board with by-laws, an agenda, a meeting schedule and membership appropriate for the individual needs and initiatives of the College. In addition, some programs have advisory boards. The COT, in addition to its 25-person National Advisory Board, has 18 individual program advisory committees. At least two programs in the CAS have their own advisory committees. The value of advisory boards with outside representation is increasingly recognized across the University community.
- MSU Billings shared governance extends beyond University boundaries to include the MSU side of the Montana University System, OCHE and the BOR. Being part of a larger system strengthens the University voice at the state level and provides the opportunity for shared initiatives and growth, including— Banner, Desire2Learn, Library Consortia, Business Process Redesign and Information Technology policies/safeguards/initiatives.
- MUS System Bureaucracy. As independent Eastern Montana College, MSU Billings had direct access to the BOR, to OCHE and to the Montana Legislature. Reorganization of the MUS and alignment of MSU Billings with Montana State University has resulted in less autonomy and less direct access to state leaders.
- Role of Advisory Boards. Under BOR policy, MSU Billings must have a Local Executive Board that advises the Chancellor regarding operations of the campus. This board is appointed by the governor and is composed of three individuals from outside the University community. Each unit in the MUS has such a board. Each College has its own advisory board with by-laws, an agenda, a meeting schedule and membership appropriate for the individual needs and initiatives of the College. Making best use of the expertise found on each of these boards in the future will be a challenge.
- Budget Decision Making. An area for increased decision making involvement for all constituencies as indicated in the Employee Morale surveys is in the budget allocation process. The Academic Senate has a Budget Subcommittee. This body was called to order on an as-needed basis by previous administrations to advise the Provost/Academic Vice Chancellor regarding necessary academic affairs budget adjustments. Because this committee represented only faculty perspectives, the Chancellor initiated a University Budget Committee (UBC) with broad representation that operated for several years during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Through its support, the UBC was instrumental in implementation of the current Academic Support Center for students, but the UBC did not achieve its potential for influencing overall internal budget allocations for the institution. Waning participation resulted in disbanding the UBC in AY 2005-2006. The present structure allows for faculty and staff voice in the budget process through their respective dean/division director. The current process includes faculty discussion at the departmental level of budgetary suggestions/determinations at the Cabinet level. Communication between these levels is through college leadership to the dean and deans’/ directors’ discussion on the Provost Council. The Academic Senate Budget Committee was reinstated spring 2008 with revised by-laws and increased constituency representation. Reinstatement of this committee greatly increased participation in the budget determinations, and in so doing, increased faculty morale. The committee will continue with long term goals and short term immediate deliberations.
- University Communication. To share governance of the institution, each constituency must be fully informed as to pressing or unresolved issues. MSU Billings is not a large institution. Nevertheless, communication can serve as an obstacle to progress, rather than a help. There is a perception held by some that various University constituencies have, at times, been left out of conversations when decisions are made. The University has been using newsletters, different constituency groups (Academic Senate, ASMSUB, etc.), large and small group meetings and general announcements to help communicate, but more needs to be done to ensure important messages are relayed to all constituencies. As an institution, MSU Billings is committed to improvement in this area, and intends to continue and to intensify communication strategies.