Management Management / Leadership page 2


Role of Department Head
In my opinion, Department Heads have always been the most important position as it pertains to educational quality. Traditionally, each program of study was represented by a Department Head. It is the Department Head who has direct contact with students and faculty within a given program. In the most ideal sense, Department Heads have powers of overview and projection. This is important because many faculty members have difficulty identifying with matters beyond their own courses or discipline. Department Heads teach, have daily contact with students and faculty members; they recommend new appointments, speak for the program, supervise budgets, keep departmental records, work with faculty on planning, serve the needs of faculty and students and lead the faculty through example and respect. Department Heads are the ones who set educational goals and student performance standards. Administrators do not have this direct involvement in the classroom or studio and often lack the understanding or perspective to identify needs of, or appreciate accomplishment by, faculty and students. Department Heads form the chief advisory committee to the Dean.

The role of Department Heads has always been controversial within educational organization in terms of the role. It has seldom been made clear as to whether the Department Head is the last outpost of administration or if it is the first line of representation to administration for faculty and students within each program. I have always chosen the latter definition because I strongly believe that is the way it was intended and should be.


Educational Organization - A History
Educational organization and governance have evolved over a period of more than four hundred years. My understanding of academic organization is that it is unique when compared to corporate, military or government organization. Definition begins with dividing the organization into Governing Body, President and Administration, Faculty and Students. Each group has assigned responsibilities with special powers to affect the other groupings. Balance is achieved through tension between the four bodies. Whenever balance is lost because one group has undue powers over the others, it is predictable that there will be problems.

Boards can make only one appointment, the President. Faculty are professionals who contract with the institution, they are not employees. Students are the beneficiaries of the organization. Education of youth is the mission and it is presumed to be the highest priority of the institution.

Throughout the history of American education there have been internal shifts in power. Up until the Civil War, most responsibility and authority resided with Trustees. They oversaw almost every aspect of the institutional operation and mission. Following the Civil War, trustees began to shed many of the responsibilities by transferring them to the President. Presidents remained all powerful until after the turn of the century. At that time, to cope with excessive or abusive Presidential powers, faculty freely borrowed the concept of academic governance from German universities. The founding of the American Association of University Professors marks the beginning of a new faculty role. Faculty became the dominant force in universities until the 1960s.

There were fluctuations of power at various times which were usually brought on by financial constraints. During the depression of the 1930s, faculty powers were somewhat diminished because of a resultant decrease in students and funding. This was the era of Publish or Perish.


Changes of the 60s
Perhaps the most radical changes in education, organization, personnel and definition of responsibilities began with the student activist movement during the 1960s and early 1970s. During those years, students were the most powerful body in educational institutions.

It was the loss of control over institutions and destruction of property by students that motivated trustees, regents and legislators to make drastic changes in traditional criteria for appointments. It was amply clear that existing administrations and personnel had been unable to control student actions. Governing bodies were determined that the situation would never occur again.

Administration was expanded and administrative roles were redefined. This was the period when the number of Vice-presidents increased, administrative and educational functions were combined to a greater extent than previously and more professional managers were hired replacing individuals who previously had come up through academic ranks.

The student movement was closely followed by economic conditions resulting from inflation, high interest rates, major reduction in government spending on education and less students making application to universities. The financial crisis came at a time when educational institutions were overextended in terms of budgets, space, personnel, programs and public activities. Most of the excesses could be directly tied to government largess such as financial aid, a variety of title programs and a wide range of grants. At the time, the era was referred to as Retrenchment. Most institutions believed conditions to be temporary and that government would eventually resume its former levels of financial support. To deal with current problems, there was an incredible increase in administrative offices with emphasis on management. This marked the beginning of Administrators as the dominating force in educational organization shaping the operation and mission of educational institutions, and the managerial era continues.

The impact has been overwhelming. Certainly not at every university, but at enough to make one uncomfortable, managerial values are more important than educational ones, universities are viewed as businesses selling educational services, teachers behave and are treated as employees rather than professionals. Decision-making tends to be pragmatic and grounded in bottom line considerations, image is more important than substance, traditional academic roles and responsibilities have been diminished and students are customers who must be catered to in order to sell more services. This should remind us that change does not always represent progress.


Leadership – General and Specific
Educational leadership is most broad at the President and Provost levels, and it impacts mainly on the Deans. Leadership by the Deans is also quite general and it is directed toward Department Heads. Department Heads exhibit leadership which affect faculty members and students of each program; and it is specific and unique within educational organization because of the involvement in the classroom or studio. It is not unusual for a Director or Dean to teach one class, but it is infrequent and not required. On the other hand, Department Heads are extensively involved with teaching, curriculum development, faculty members and students within the program.

Regardless of its importance, no other position in the educational hierarchy has suffered more than that of the Department Head, and especially so within visual art education. The first inroads began to occur during the 1960s with the establishment of Divisions. Groupings of related programs such as Design, Fine Arts or Crafts were placed into Divisions under the supervision of a Division Head. Leadership for each discipline was eliminated in favor of one leader for several programs of study. It is not known if this practice was restricted to visual arts or whether it applied to other academic disciplines within the university.

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