Ohio University President Hugh Sherman has focused on shared governance while organizations like Faculty Senate maneuver roadblocks created by COVID-19.
OU, like most universities, divides governance between its Board of Trustees and the president’s office but often consults from organizations like Faculty Senate, Graduate and Undergraduate Student Senates and many other bodies.
The Board’s decision to name Sherman president without input from other leadership groups on campus was a mistake, Joe McLaughlin, vice president of OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, said.
Because of that decision, shared governance has been damaged, McLaughlin said, and a lot is riding on Sherman to show extra attention to shared governance during his term in order to repair it.
Robin Muhammad, chair of OU Faculty Senate, said Sherman has made himself very accessible to leadership from faculty, administrators and students since his hiring.
“People find that reassuring in very unreassuring times,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad also said the main obstacles standing in the way of shared governance are caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, although there has been some progress. She said the pandemic has caused issues with faculty and staff managing their workloads.
The change of presidents wasn’t an obstacle because it was seamless, and Sherman was able to fit in right away due to his previous position as dean of the College of Business.
Despite challenges from COVID-19, Muhammad remains optimistic for OU’s future of shared governance. She said pathways and communication lines between leadership groups on campus have been strong, and she wants that trend to continue.
Similarly, Nicole Pennington, executive dean for regional higher education at OU, has felt that OU’s regional campuses have been represented by Sherman.
“The President has spent the past couple of months engaging in dialogue with students, faculty, staff and regional community leaders to provide transparency to his Presidential priorities,” Pennington said in an email.
Pennington said Sherman’s efforts to add regional representation to the Board is evidence of that representation. In October, the Board added Misty Crosby, executive director of Buckeye Hills Regional Council, as a regional trustee after Sherman proposed her addition.
“Even prior to his Presidency, Dr. Sherman was a proven champion for southeastern Ohio, and the relationships that he has fostered over his two plus decade career at Ohio University have facilitated a smooth transition and have strengthened our efforts as One OHIO,” Pennington said in an email.