President Shaw proposes new governance structure

President Shaw speaks in Lynn Wood Hall at the Feb. 20 town hall meeting.
(Photo by: Adam De Lisser)
President Shaw speaks in Lynn Wood Hall at the Feb. 20 town hall meeting. (Photo by: Adam De Lisser)

Plans are underway to explore new options for the governance structure of Southern Adventist University, according to President Ken Shaw at the Feb. 15 Q&A session held in the Presidential Banquet Room in Wright Hall. The structural changes being considered were presented again Monday at an employee town hall meeting in Lynn Wood Hall.

 At the Feb. 15 meeting, Shaw said the new structure will start its pilot year in the 2023-2024 school year. The restructuring plans are not set in stone, according to Shaw, as the university deciphers which proposed changes are working well. 

Shaw said when he arrived in 2021, he went over the handbook and started to explore ways the university could improve. After consulting with The President’s Cabinet, Shaw brought in Credo, a consulting group out of North Carolina. The group works with higher education institutions to make them more efficient, according to Shaw. 

“I began to have conversations with individuals on campus, and one instrumental person was Dr. Keith Snyder,” Shaw said during the meeting. “He talked about some of the committee work that had been done and how, sometimes, it might take two years to get certain things completed, how certain committees didn’t function well and those types of things.”

Shaw created a task force headed by Rachel Williams-Smith, Faculty Senate chair and dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, to review the changes suggested by Credo. Williams-Smith was present at the meeting along with fellow task force members Janell Hullquist, associate director for Marketing and University Relations, and Ben Thompson, systems specialist. 

“We’ve been doing a deep dive into a lot of information, and we’ve identified some areas where we still have more work to do,” Hullquist said. “ … We’re looking at communication recommendations to keep people informed and to make sure that the right voices are being included in decision making.”

Among other changes, the governance structure is now divided into four types of convening bodies: councils, committees, governance committees and task forces. In the proposed structure, each vice president is in charge of several committees. As presented in Credo’s proposal, there are three categories of governance: academic, administrative and university consultation.

Questions and Concerns 

After explaining the proposed changes, Shaw opened the floor for questions. First Year Experience Coordinator Renita Moore expressed concern over dissolving smaller committees, resulting in too many topics for larger committees to discuss in a timely manner. In response to this, Shaw stated that the pilot year is to work out whether the changes are beneficial or not. 

“So, either the committee is expanded or extended or maybe you need another committee that just focuses on something in particular, right?” Shaw said. “That’s part of the iterative process moving forward. So, you know, if it’s not working, we need to go back to the old in terms of having that committee.”

Another attendee raised the question of flexibility given that the new structure does not work in a specific area of university governance. 

“Just because you have a governance structure today, doesn’t mean that we can’t shift and modify tomorrow,” Shaw said in response to the question. “If something isn’t working, we should change it and make it more efficient, make it more effective. So, both of those things are extremely important moving forward. We should never say it’s a done deal. But this is quite a significant change, and so that’s why we’re thinking about [piloting] this. Let’s begin to engage and make the necessary modifications moving forward.”

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