Book Reviews

Book By: Ronal Ehrenber, Ed
Review By: Marie Dillon Dahleh
Assistant Dean for Academic programs
Harvard University



In the book Governing Academia, Editor Ronald Ehrenber brings together 14 scholars and administrators to discuss the history of academic governance, different governance types, and their institutional implications. This book covers a broad range of topics including: (1) the roles of the president, board of trustees, faculty and administrators; (2) financial implications of different organizational styles; (3) collective bargaining and shared governance; and (4) external forces, e.g., the rise of for-profit institutions, insurance concerns that dictate policy, and consortia.  Although chapter authors mix current knowledge with open research questions the balance between these two approaches varies across articles. 

In the preface Ehrenburg states that “the volume [is] accessible to a broad audience”(x). This certainly is true for some chapters but not all.  While chapters 1, 4, and 7-10 are accessible for a general advisor/administrator, the remaining chapters will appeal only to the social science researcher. Still, one strength of this book is that each chapter is self-contained so general readers can, and probably should, read chapters independently.

Within general interest chapters, Freedman (Chapter 1) provides a clear introduction to the role of presidents and boards of trustees. Using his experience as President of the University of Iowa (representing public institutions) and Dartmouth College (private institution), Freedman examines all aspects of the relationship between presidents and their boards. Lohmann (Chapter 4) employs the history of the academe to support her claim that although difficult, it is often necessary that institutions change. She argues that change can only occur by “designing decentralized structures” (p. 90). Hammond (Chapter 5) provides specific examples how organizational structure can change an ultimate decision as one institution may be structured to include a Dean of Natural Science (which includes Entomology and Genetics) and a Dean of Social Science (which include Agricultural Economics and Sociology). A second institution may have a Dean of Agriculture (that includes Entomology and Agricultural Economics) and a Dean of Literature, Science and the Arts with departments of Genetics and Sociology (p. 109). These differing models can, and do, cause different tenure and funding decisions (p. 114).

Overall the book is a slow read for the non-social scientist although individual chapters provide insight into how institution structure influences the workings of universities with different structures.




Governing Academia: Who is in charge at the modern university? ( 2004). Book by Ehrenber, Ronald, Ed. Review by Marie Dillon Dahleh. Ithaca, Cornell University Press. 315 pp. $35.00. ISBN 0-8014-4054-8 

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