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Christie looks back

Looking back 30 years after the so-called Christie Report redefined faculty governance at the University, James B. Duke Professor of Law George Christie said the faculty's role in influencing University policy remains solid and the changes established then remain as important as ever.

The report was submitted to the Academic Council in April 1972 by the Committee to Study the Nature and Role of the Academic Council, which Christie chaired. The report aimed to establish a coherent system for communicating faculty recommendations on University policy to the administration. Among other provisions, it called for administrators to give the council ample time to discuss major issues before they were brought before senior officials or the Board of Trustees for action.

Christie stressed greater accountability for administrators as a major achievement of the reforms.

"On the whole, the administration has shown good faith and has brought major proposals before the council," he said. "I think it's led to better decision-making."

He also said the reforms increased the faculty's say in planning.

"It's the job of the president and the Board of Trustees to run the University, but they should let us know what they're doing," he said. "I think we've done that and I'm pleased."

The report, which contained 10 recommendations addressing a number of Academic Council issues, also redefined a "faculty representative" as someone who was appointed by the Executive Committee of the Academic Council. This eliminated the practice whereby "an administrator could consult with a couple of people, maybe his cronies, and say, 'I spoke with the faculty,'" Christie said.

Provost Peter Lange said administrators also benefited from consulting representatives who truly spoke for the faculty.

"From my standpoint, [the reforms] really assure that we consult with and work with the faculty effectively on the major issues that affect the University," he said.

Christie said the council's influence has lent the University legitimacy. "You would have had serious problems, given all that has happened in the last 30 years, if it looked like [the administration] was a top-down regime," he said.

He also said having an established system to distill faculty opinion was even more important now than in the past, considering the differences between today's faculty and the faculty circa 1972. "It's a larger faculty with less commonality [today], so I think [an Academic Council] like what we have is even more important," he said.

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