Saturday, September 28, 2013

When the Deans are Afraid of the Faculty Members, THEN You Might Have a Strong University

In the strongest universities, the deans are respectful of the faculty members, and to some extent "fear" them. They want to keep the faculty, and they listen to them. At weaker universities, the faculty are treated as employees, the deans as their bosses, and the Industrial Relations are antediluvian. Even at weak universities there can be units which are protected and treasured by their deans, so that within that unit, whatever else happens in the university the faculty has that sense of respect.

Once the deans and provost think they are in any sense better than the faculty, the university is on a downward trajectory.

I have worked at both sorts of universities. What distinguishes the stronger institutions is their sense that the university is the faculty, and the job of administrators is to create an environment that allows the faculty to thrive and be in charge. Chairs of departments rotate among the faculty. And deans, when they end their terms, often return to the faculty.

None of this means that the faculty are allowed to be irresponsible or laggards or act out their prejudices.

You want a faculty that is hard to keep, since they get offers from elsewhere, but are easy to maintain, since they know what they want to do and do it.

Of course, there will always be problematic faculty and staff, perhaps even sociopaths and the like. They are never allowed to destroy the institution. See my earlier posting, with the summary of the "opera" La Devadora. And there will be bureaucratic actions that are unconscionable. The latter hurt the institution make it harder to keep good people.