Who decides?

A question I periodically hear from faculty is, "who decides?”

Usually it comes in reference to funding decisions (i.e., “who decides to raise tuition?”) but has also been raised in response to personnel decisions (i.e., “who decides to hire/not hire?”) as well as programming (i.e., “who decides to launch/close program/initiatives/centers?").

In a nutshell, as Dean I have college-level authority on all academic and budgetary decisions. That said, my decisions are not made in a vacuum since I answer to numerous parties including our CoE community (faculty, students, staff), the university community (Provost, President, Regents), and external community (district and community partners, alumni, funders, national peers, general public). Within the College and depending on the issue, I seek input through various channels including associate and assistant deans, area chairs, College Leadership Team, Faculty Council, advancement team, faculty meetings, staff meetings, and ASCE (Associated Students of the College of Education). Some decisions that I have made to further our mission, relevance, and impact include launching/supporting: Unite:Ed, Community Partner Fellows, Othello Commons, Brotherhood Initiative, EduTalks, and the Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies (CAIIS).

And, of course, I do not make EVERY SINGLE DECISION — our College has a very capable leadership team who act as the “dean’s designees” and are responsible for fulfilling different aspects of the College’s work. Together, we do our best to thoughtfully make decisions that balance the pursuit of our mission alongside the business of running a multi-million dollar enterprise. Most days it’s rewarding work, but some days … not so much.

For “big items" (i.e., annual college budget, tenure/promotion cases, faculty and staff hiring, assigning merit) my decisions are advisory to the Provost. As THE chief academic and budget officer, he has university-wide authority on matters impacting the educational, budgetary, and administrative affairs of the university. That said, he also does not make decisions in a vacuum as he answers to the President, Board of Regents, Faculty Senate, etc. He also does not make EVERY SINGLE DECISION. Deans, chancellors, vice-provosts, etc. serve as his designees and we do our best to fulfill our roles on behalf of the university.

As you can see, the answer to the question of “who decides” is complex — it depends on the kind and level of decision being made and involves numerous layers of checks and balances. Some decisions remain at the college-level while others move their way into Gerberding Hall and far beyond. On the matter of student tuition, the Washington State Legislature is responsible for setting undergraduate tuition rates. At the graduate level, schools and colleges can recommend increases (or decreases) but they must be approved by, you guessed it, the Provost.