Book by Kenneth P. Mortimer & Colleen O-Brien Sathre
Review by Kathie Sindt
Office of Academic Advising
Johns Hopkins University

While new academic advisors may not view developing their abilities to be “politically savvy” as a high priority, an experienced advising administrator will certainly have learned about the importance of understanding campus politics. In The Art and Politics of Academic Governance, the authors provide an overview of the relationships between boards, presidents, provosts, unions, and faculty senates that create the shared academic governances found in higher education.  

The authors progress through the book discussing each of these relationships, using real-world examples to illustrate the key characteristics that make shared governance work. One theme throughout is the concept that for successful shared governance, leaders must be “market-smart – able to understand the market and other external forces at work; mission-centered – able to keep their institution’s basic goals and distinctive purposes at the forefront of the decision-making process; and politically savvy – able to lead their institution safely through the jungle of competing advocates” (p.xiv).  An example in the book examines the relationships among campus administration, faculty, students, and the board of trustees. The authors describe the intersection of the political agendas of the constituents during the board’s review of a request for an increase in tuition. Another example, used to demonstrate how major academic decisions are reached, is an examination of how new academic programs, especially ones that may be trendy in the market, are approved. One strength of the book is the use of realistic examples that allow the reader to understand the complexity of academic governance.  

Those who seek perspective about campus forces that interact during the making of big decisions will find this book useful. While major decisions facing campuses are not part of most of typical conversations between academic advisors and students, advisors will benefit from knowledge of the complexity of these issues. This book may be quite beneficial for advisors on campuses where politically-charged major decisions are affecting the campus environment for students.   

The Art and Politics of Academic Governance: Relations among boards, presidents, and faculty.  (2007). Book by Kenneth P. Mortimer & Colleen O-Brien Sathre. Review by Kathie Sindt. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 160 pp., $42.95, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-275-98478-6
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