The Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs is composed of faculty members responsible for advising the President and Dean on faculty-related issues. The GFA is tasked with overseeing faculty governance with duties ranging from promoting faculty professional development to overseeing department budgets and leading departmental reviews.
Professor of Physics Mark Battle, Professor of Government Michael Franz, Associate Professor of English Emma Maggie Solberg, Geoffrey Canada Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History Brian Purnell, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Cinema Studies Allison Cooper and Assistant Professor of Sociology Oyman Basaran comprise the committee.
These six faculty members were elected by their colleagues to develop initiatives that adequately support faculty at the College. Junior faculty serve on two-year terms and tenured faculty members serve three-year terms.
When Solberg learned of her election to the committee, she was initially conflicted.
“It came as a surprise. I didn’t really know what it meant,” Solberg said. “I felt it was a big responsibility, and I wanted to take it really seriously.”
The GFA is in charge of leading and organizing monthly faculty meetings, populating committees and holding spaces to answer colleagues’ questions and concerns. Their top priority is to make sure that faculty have a say in Bowdoin’s administrative decisions.
“Faculty meetings are one of the important ways in which we guarantee that issues that are important to faculty are discussed because both Dean Scanlon and President Rose are in attendance almost always at faculty meetings,” Cooper said.
Faculty meetings allow the faculty of the College to ask questions about the administration, discuss campus issues with peers and vote on the direction the College takes. It embodies the co-governance structure at Bowdoin.
Some questions asked by faculty include the bounds of the GFA’s workday and allocation of resources on campus.
“This is where, at small liberal arts schools, shared governance has its best shot. I remember going to my first faculty meeting and hearing the dean and the president giving remarks and saying ‘Does anyone have any questions?’ [which led to] 15 minutes of questions,” Solberg said. “I have never seen anything like that—the faculty showing up. And really having questions and grilling the President—I love that. I like that. I respect that about Bowdoin and the faculty here.”
Franz feels that it is the GFA’s responsibility to advocate for faculty. By doing so, they give back to those who entrusted them to be leaders of faculty governance.
“It’s part of your responsibilities as a faculty member to serve on these committees. At some point along the way, people will get elected for various reasons,” Franz said. “Nobody usually desires to be on these high faculty committees, not because we don’t like the work but because it is a fair amount of work.”
Because of the workload, some faculty members oppose election to a committee like the GFA.
“Some people campaign to not be elected because it’s a lot of work. I wouldn’t say that anyone actively campaigns for [our responsibilities] but people step up and do this work as requested,” Battle said.
Solberg echoed this sentiment, saying that she was unsure how to approach the workload that came with the position.
This added responsibility has taught the GFA members how to be flexible while navigating their teaching, research and personal life.
“Being on the GFA required that I pivoted my research, that I moved in a different direction with it and that I returned to a project that I had put on the shelf because that project did not require me to be traveling all the time to different archives,” Purnell said. “I couldn’t continue on with the research that I had been doing for three years because that research required [a lot] more time…[The GFA] forced me, or it gave me the opportunity to be adaptable and flexible.”
Being a part of the GFA has not only made members spokespeople for their peers, but has also provided them with tremendous insight about how Bowdoin operates.
“I like the people on the committee and it’s rewarding to work with them. It’s interesting and enjoyable to think through things together,” Battle said.