Leadership Decision Making at Westmont College
Westmont College’s decision making structure is based on a model of shared governance, which is the norm for higher education institutions. As the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) indicates: “The variety and complexity of the tasks performed by institutions of higher education produce an inescapable interdependence among governing board, administration, faculty, students and others.”
Here is a brief summary of Westmont’s approach to shared governance, followed by a description of the primary decision making processes at the college.
An Overview of Shared Governance
The Westmont College Board of Trustees is legally responsible for the governance of the college. As a result, it has final authority over institutional purposes, policies, and programs. The Board normally exercises its responsibility on campus through the President.
Chief Executive Officer
The President of Westmont College is hired by, and serves at the pleasure of, the Board of Trustees. The President exercises all executive powers not explicitly reserved to the Board of Trustees; this includes final review and final administrative approval of college plans, budgets, and policies and to submit appropriate items to the Board of Trustees for adoption. Presidential responsibilities and authority include overseeing the operations and development of the institution as a whole, and supervising the vice presidents in the performance of their duties.
Primary Responsibility for Instruction and Curriculum
The Faculty of Westmont College exercise primary responsibility for instruction and curriculum. Faculty recommendations in these areas are reviewed and then presented by the chief academic officer and the president to the Board of Trustees, which has final authority. Procedures for making curricular and academic policy decisions are included in the Faculty Handbook.
Faculty and administrative officers share responsibility for developing standards and policies for the recruitment and admission of students.
Faculty also are authorized and expected to be involved in the formulation of other college policies, including those in student life, public relations, institutional budgeting, and long-range planning. Likewise, student and staff representatives† are authorized and expected to be involved as appropriate in key areas of college governance, including policy development, institutional budgeting, and long-range planning.
Communication and coordination of college governance issues occurs most frequently at meetings of the Executive Team (comprised of the President and vice presidents), as well as on a regular basis at President’s Council meetings (comprised of the Executive Team and representatives† of the faculty, staff and student body). Governance updates are provided periodically at faculty meetings and at staff forums.
Primary Decision Making Processes
To various degrees, handbooks for faculty, staff and students contain information about several decision making processes on campus. Some of the primary decision making processes pertain to:
Academic Programs, Policies and Personnel
The Faculty Handbook specifies the processes used to make decisions regarding such academic matters as:
- The addition or deletion of majors and fields of study;
- Establishing or changing requirements for general education and graduation; and
- Hiring, promoting, and granting tenure to faculty.
Capital Improvement Projects
Each year, the college budget provides some funding for capital improvement projects. Funding for a capital improvement project (CIP) can be requested from any member of the Executive Team. Because requests greatly exceed available funding, a CIP Committee (comprised of representatives from both the program and operations sides of the college) reviews all requests and informs the President’s Implementation Council of recommended priorities. The President considers any advice received from the President’s Implementation Council and from the Executive Team before making the CIP funding decisions each year.
The President is responsible for developing an annual budget recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The budget development process typically begins in the Fall, with recommendations for increases in student charges formulated by late January and recommendations for expenses made by early April. Each division has its own process for receiving and prioritizing budget requests. (For details about the process within your division, please contact your vice president.) During the budget development process, periodic updates are given to the President’s Implementation Council. Most of the advice received by the President on budget priorities comes through Executive Team meetings, where representatives from all divisions are present.
Primary responsibility for developing and approving academic policies rests with the faculty. Responsibility for developing and approving policies pertaining to the recruitment and admission of students is shared by faculty and administrative officials.
In all other cases, the President has the responsibility to develop and approve college policies by securing (often through Executive Team members) appropriate involvement of campus constituencies (faculty, President’s Council, etc.) in the development and review of proposed policies pertaining to student life, public relations, institutional budgeting, strategic planning, and on all additional related college policies. The President may choose to delegate to other administrators the responsibility and authority to develop and approve department or division policies.
Fundraising priorities consistent with the strategic plan are approved by the Board of Trustees following a recommendation from the President. In the development of fundraising priorities, the President will seek broad-based input from the Executive Team, faculty, staff, and student representatives on the President's Implementation Council. Additional input from Faculty Council and Academic Senate may be sought on specific fundraising priorities.
The two groups with primary responsibility for strategic planning are the Strategic Planning Committee (consisting of trustee, faculty, staff and student representatives) and the Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees. The Strategic Planning Committee makes recommendations on strategic priorities to the trustee Planning Committee. The trustee Planning Committee then makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees, which has final authority for determining these priorities.
The Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) blog site gives access to application forms for student clubs and for WCSA funding of student events; WCSA determines which student clubs to authorize and which student clubs and events will receive WCSA funding. In accordance with the Student Handbook and the Student Fundraising website, a student fundraising committee reviews applications and determines which student ministries may solicit gifts to Westmont that generate tax-deductible gifts.