Saturday, April 16, 2011

A different path???

So the inexorable march toward becoming a junior college continues. The pending reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences appears to be providing evidence that the regime wants less of a university and more of a two year institution. Instead of making the bold move of creating two divisions, Humanities and Social Sciences, the College is shuffling departments or parts of departments into other departments. The first question I would ask is what problem is this solution addressing. If this move is being made only for financial reasons, I would challenge the administration to remember what the core function of a university is. If this is just about teaching students, like at a junior college, then it makes perfect sense to lump programs with little disciplinary affinity together. This bottom line of course satisfies administrators who seek fairness in the distribution of cuts not recognizing that administration only exists to support the core function of the institution. I realize administrators don’t like hearing this but they can’t do my job. I can do theirs. Parity or professional equity in terms of importance doesn’t exist. That hard truth plays out in the shadowy ways many administrators attempt to exert their authority. I have long since tired of hearing how hard and how long the recently added highly paid support personnel have been working to clean up the mess left by their predecessors. It is in these moments that I realize these new administrators lack the corporate memory of long serving faculty and thus fail to realize these words have echoed through the campus before. It was under the prior administration that new administrators came onto campus promising to clean up the mess of the prior regime. Now 12 years on, the newest additions to the administrative support ranks parrot the same words and frankly, those words ring hollow. For all of the bluster of the CIO, our technological infrastructure is virtually unchanged. Deck chairs have been rearranged and tasks from now defunct offices taken over by ITD with little productive effect. The audit report and its fallout are indicative of continuing administrative failure. The normal creative tension between administration and faculty has degenerated into low intensity conflict. I suspect most faculty who pay attention to such things would say they have no confidence in the regime to effect the change necessary to keep the university out of receivership or at worst off the auction block. And I would imagine that most administrators realize that faculty have little or no confidence in their capacity to right the ship. Let me provide a recent example. When President Daniel was here, around 2001 or 2002, I spoke to the VP for Finance and suggested the university partner with a couple of banks to provide accounts and debit cards for students. This would give many of our students an opportunity to have a bank account, learn the responsibilities of personal finance and have direct deposit of their financial aid reimbursement. Of course, the past administration couldn’t deliver on this fairly simple idea from a lowly faculty member. Now, 9 or 10 years later, there is the Cougar Card. There are a couple of problems with this system though. First, students weren’t consulted on this project in any substantive way. The paternalistic hubris of this is clear to me. It follows in a long tradition of administrators thinking they act “in loco parentis” when dealing with adult students. Second, there is no option to decline participation. This runs counter to how mature organizations function. And now the newest administrators wonder why our retention is so low? Here’s a clue. Stop treating adults like children. Treat adults like adults. Check the inflated egos at the door and collaborate (good faith shared governance, not symbolic gestures) with those who hold the corporate memory of the institution in order to inform your decision making. Surrender your need to be in charge and lord over faculty. Be the administrators that high functioning universities employ and break with the shameful tradition of administration at this institution, the tradition that has damaged and continues to damage the brand of our fair institution.

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