Behrend hierarchy: Who makes the decisions? - The Behrend Beacon

Behrend hierarchy: Who makes the decisions?

Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Author: Bridget Jenkins

We are one campus geographically distributed, but how does this unity break down as a Penn State hierarchy?

The big decisions at Behrend are decided collectively. Donald Birx, the chancellor at Behrend, and the chancellors from the other Penn State campuses work together on key decisions at either the Chancellor's Advisory Board (CAB) or the Chancellor's Advisory Council (CAC).

Similarly, the Associate Deans and School Directors meet to discuss issues cooperatively, as well as on an individual basis. The goal is to include as much of the faculty, staff and student body in the decision making process as much as possible, despite the fact that Chancellor Birx has the final say at Behrend.

Decisions are primarily made on a campus to campus basis. The idea is to have campus autonomy, even though the chancellors do work together. In general, the broad common policies are passed down from the system level to each branch campus.

Although the Penn State system does prefer a sense of uniformity and cohesion between campuses, Behrend does have the ability to change campus specific policies. However, it would be incredibly difficult to change a system wide policy, due to the number of parties involved.

The Penn State system maintains uniformity in education, so majors are coordinated between campuses. Because of Penn State’s size, it is easy for any campus to find a major offered at another campus and seek approval to offer it at its own campus. The approval process takes on average one to two years so that the campus can assure that it is has the proper faculty and processes in place to offer a quality Penn State program. 

Outside of majors, Behrend has some more flexibility. Students are free to create clubs and organizations that are fairly freewheeling.

The cooperative system of Penn State schools does make for some stress between campuses. 

“I think Penn State is still evolving as a system, and the role of the campuses is changing,” Birx said. “At times this creates a bit of tension as some of the campuses have grown to be quite significant academic institutions in their own right.  So there are growing pains, but on the whole there is a reasonable balance within the system of campus autonomy and central coordination.”

Each campus works to make decisions that improve not only each campus separately, but the Penn State system as a whole. Birx said, “[It] is not that we seek more control but that we will always seek the ability and freedom to grow and evolve into all that we can be. Hopefully that is seen as good for the system as well.”