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  • Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education by William G. Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin
  • Karena Brace, Director of Program Operations
William G. Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin. Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 400 pp. Hardcover: $29.95. ISBN 978-0-691-16642-1.

William G. Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin tackle the “we” versus “they” mindset in higher education as they make the case for changes to governance in Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Roles in the Governance of Higher Education. Bowen is the former president of Princeton University and President Emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Tobin, former president of Hamilton College, is the senior program officer for Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Both authors began their careers in academe as faculty members, Bowen in economics and Tobin in American history. As a result, they bring a well-rounded perspective on higher education and first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by faculty and administrators. The book gains credence from their respective expertise, with four case studies providing historical accounts and supporting evidence for their conclusions.

At the heart of their argument is whether an “inherited,” “hundred-year-old system of governance practices” can support the changing demands for higher education (p. 1; p. 64). Bowen and Tobin contend that higher education institutions, marked by increased specialization among faculty, professionalization of administration, and perpetual predispositions toward vertical organization, cannot respond appropriately or in a timely fashion to current issues. They suggest movement toward more horizontal organizational structures that drive collaborative practices. However, the authors are quick to caution that it is not collaborative decision-making or consensus they seek. Rather, it is meaningful participation from all campus constituents, true leadership with the courage to act, while assuming the best from all involved. Despite the book’s title, Bowen and Tobin readily acknowledge, “this study is really about leadership and how it is both constrained and exercised in the modern college or university” (p. x). Consequently, this book serves as a critical resource for understanding the historical influences on current issues in governance of higher education and how administrators might begin to address their role and the role of faculty in decision-making.

Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Roles in the Governance of Higher Education is composed of five chapters with the Introduction serving as Chapter 1. In it, Bowen and Tobin set the stage for the chapters to come by painting a rather urgent need for change in governance structures. As degree attainment levels, particularly among minorities, fall short of expectations, degree completion time increases, and widespread issues of affordability plague higher education, Bowen and Tobin plead with readers to take heed. They question the governance structures currently in place at American institutions, critical of their slow pace, lack of concern for appropriate resource allocation, and occupation with preservation of the status quo. Bowen and Tobin call for an evolution in governance so that American institutions can uphold the social mobility promised by higher education, graduating students who can compete globally.

Another critical component of the introduction is an explanation of the book’s structure. Setting this book apart is the use of four case studies that detail milestone events in governance and evolution of faculty roles from the beginnings of the institutions through current events still unfolding. Representing the groups studied are the City University of New York (CUNY), Macalester College, Princeton University, and University of [End Page 156] California. The selection of these institutions is intended to give readers a varied set of institutional cultures, leadership styles, and events that shaped the future of higher education. However, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the professional ties that Bowen holds with Princeton University. The cases are incorporated throughout the remaining four chapters with the full cases provided at the end of the book. Bowen and Tobin ask that readers “resist any temptation they may have to ‘skip to the end,’” encouraging readers to engage in exploration of the studies, citing their importance in framing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1090-7009
Print ISSN
0162-5748
Pages
pp. 156-159
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-14
Open Access
No
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