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The Western

Who Rules the Academy?

Community Co-Chairs
• Elsa Dias, Pikes Peak Community College
• Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, Whitman College
• Michael McCann, University of Washington

How to Participate:
If you’re interested in participating, please contact:
Timothy Kaufman-Osborn,, 425-445-4430

How to Support
WPSA is not requiring any fees or membership dues to participate in its Virtual Communities during the 2020-2021 Pilot Program. Many people are volunteering their labor to make that possible, a model that will not be sustainable if we are to continue offering this program on a more permanent basis.

If you would like to support this initiative now and increase its viability for the future, please consider donating to help pay for administrative and IT costs. We especially invite participants who are not currently dues-paying members of WPSA to contribute. We suggest a sliding-scale of $5-$25 as you are able. You may contribute here:

Community Focus
As we enter yet another era of austerity in higher education, this virtual community will ask how U.S. colleges and universities are ruled. How do governing boards, presidents, faculty, staff, students, and other actors participate (or not) in resolving controversial issues concerning, for example, budgets, academic program modifications, staffing cuts, academic freedom, and whatever other issues are of interest to our participants? Our inquiry will have an activist as well as a scholarly orientation, and, when appropriate, will discuss specific recent and/or ongoing controversies.

Intended Participants
We welcome all faculty members interested in this question. We hope to secure a diverse group of participants, including persons from public regionals, community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities as well as faculty members who are unionized and those who are not.

We hope to educate ourselves about the distribution and exercise of power within U.S. colleges and universities with an eye toward enabling faculty members to participate more strategically and effectively in institutional decision-making, whether that assumes the form of participating in established mechanisms of “shared governance” or less conventional modes (e.g., strikes, direct action, etc.).

Kinds of Events Planned
Throughout the 2020-21 academic year, beginning in September, we will meet using Zoom approximately once a month to discuss general issues of academic governance, as illustrated whenever possible by current controversies. The specific format of our discussions will be determined in large part by the members of this virtual community and may be modified as appropriate for different topics and as we learn from our early sessions.

Upcoming Events
Information about upcoming events will be posted here and on the unified Virtual Communities calendar at as events are scheduled. Convert event times to your local time zone at

Event: Inaugural meeting of Who Rules the Academy
Date: September 29, 2020 Time: 3:00 to 5:00 PM (PST)
Event Details: This will be the inaugural meeting of our virtual community. Persons who are interested in participating should send an email to Tim Kaufman-Osborn ( by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 18. He will then create a distribution list and send out a Zoom link for our September 29 meeting.

If you cannot attend this meeting but are interested in participating in future sessions, please send Tim an email to that effect. After our initial session, the co-chairs of this group will revisit the question of when best to meet throughout the coming year.

Contact for Access: Tim Kaufman-Osborn (