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Management Educational Conundrum page 4

 
 

Public Perception
Because of preoccupation with image, management is prone to build extensive facilities for the performing arts and art museums without corresponding increase of funds, facilities or space for instruction in the arts. This shortcoming is perhaps more so for the visual than for the performing arts. Students in the performing arts benefit from facilities through both observation and participation. It is extremely rare to find a university museum that exhibits faculty or student work or has a structured working relationship with Art History faculty and students. Where faculty and students in drama, dance and music have opportunities to perform for the public, visual artists and art historians are denied the same privilege with university art museums.

Management values the public perception of the university as a center for the arts to a greater extent than it does the quality of instruction in the arts. This observation in no way implies that universities should not be a cultural resource for the community through performing arts programs and museum exhibitions. It is only that it should not be done at the expense of instruction in the arts.

Some part of the present situation traces to the fact that Trustees, Regents and Legislators have contact mainly with management, and they seldom meet with those who are actually working directly with students in the classroom and studio. What boards hear is often only a pragmatic view of education based on managerial factors. Perhaps Boards should hear from faculty what would be ideal as well as what is practical from administrators.

Present channels for representation and communication do not work well for faculty. An ongoing problem is illustrated by a faculty member going to his or her immediate supervisor with a request or problem. If resolution is beyond the authority of that office, the supervisor might or might not, take the request to the next level. However, they seldom aggressively pursue the matter for fear of provoking or antagonizing their supervisor. They do not wish to risk themselves being viewed by superiors as boat rockers. Although the request might be accepted at one level, it can be ignored at the next one. It has been my experience that very few faculty requests or concerns ever reach the offices where decision-making or implementation take place.

I have provided only a few instances to illustrate where and how the conflict of values and objectives between operation and instruction occur. It is acknowledged that at many institutions some degree of balance between operational and instructional efficiency has been struck. However, there are still problems arising from how balances are weighted or which priorities receive the most attention. There are exceptions to the distinctions made regarding faculty and administrators or managers and leaders. However, my concern is with what is the norm and not with the exceptions.

I think the public views universities as monolithic organizations composed of trustees, president and administration, faculty and students all working toward common goals. In reality, each group have there own agenda and there is a duality between educational and operational functions, and it affects faculty effectiveness as teachers. This is especially so as administrators and faculty are not playing on a level field. Administrators control the funds, make key decisions, establish policies and have direct communication with governing bodies.

While operation is essential to mission, it should never have the higher priority, but I think that is what has happened since the 1970s. State universities today appear to be involved in too many peripheral programs and activities, administrations are too large and academic areas are improperly as well as over managed. Trustees, Regents or Legislators need to recognize that there are problems because of the schism between operational and educational functions. It is necessary to first identify a problem before it can be addressed. Governing bodies must understand the differences between administrative efficiency and instructional effectiveness. Where necessary, Boards should establish new job definitions, institutional procedures and policies that result in a balance between the two, with each having its own integrity and priorities, but making certain that both are working toward common goals.

   
 

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