Unions and faculty senates: A cross-case analysis of governance within private universities

Carlene Blake-Hudson, Fordham University


Higher education academic governance is a complex decision-making process leading to policies and actions. The interactions between faculty, senates, unions, and administrators have been explored by a number of models, but little data is available for private universities. This study examined the governance process at two private universities in the New York area: Adelphi and Hofstra. A semi-structured interview was constructed to collect data on perceptions of the senate, faculty, union, governance and leadership styles, and power structures at the universities. The sample included 30 participants, 15 from each university (a cross-section of faculty, union, senate, and administration members). Interview data were analyzed using the constant comparative method so as to extract themes and categories for cross-case comparisons. Half the participants perceived the senate as traditional at both universities. Hofstra participants were equally divided about its effectiveness; Adelphi participants viewed it as bureaucratic and the center of power. Most Hofstra participants suggested that their union was strong and effective, and that the university senate-union relationship was good. Although Adelphi participants expressed similar views, the union-faulty senate relationship which had been very intimate during the effort to oust the past president was no longer viewed as being as close. While no particular governance style or model was identified at Hofstra, Adelphi's was perceived as being bureaucratic, with most of the power residing in the administration. Shared governance appeared to be stronger at Hofstra than at Adelphi. Most Hofstra participants agreed that the university was like a family, with its leaders focused on fundraising and academics. By contrast, Adelphi's style was viewed as one of respect and listening to its constituents. Despite these differences, most participants identified themselves as content at their respective universities. These results suggest that administrators need to be more aware of and act upon the expressed need of faculty, union, and senate members to be a part of the governance process and to be treated with trust and respect. A combination of collegiality, co-optation, and control seems to be successful in obtaining shared governance in the presence of both a union and senate.

Subject Area

School administration|Labor relations|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Blake-Hudson, Carlene, "Unions and faculty senates: A cross-case analysis of governance within private universities" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3262831.