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Management Mission and Operation page 6

 
 

Administrative Pressures on Faculty
In recent years, administrators have sent mixed messages to faculty regarding the importance of teaching. Administrative pressure on teachers for research, professional accomplishment, and national or international recognition as criteria for merit pay, retention, promotion or tenure clearly relegate teaching to a lesser status. It has reduced teachers’ participation in the classroom or studio and decreased the time spent with students outside of class. In view of the traditional university mission, administrative criteria might well represent a misplaced emphasis. Qualitative criteria for the effectiveness of educational programs should be of greater importance than quantitative criteria for individual teachers. This is not the first time that publish or perish has been overstated in education. It was not particularly successful during the 1930s, and currently it is doing more harm than good in terms of educational benefits for students.

Some of the more respected educational institutions are recognizing this and are shifting emphasis back to teaching, or at least they are striking a better balance between teaching and research criteria. President Donald Kennedy of Stanford University was recently quoted as saying that it was time to reaffirm that education, that is, teaching in all its forms is the primary task of colleges and universities.

Professional development of faculty and research should be encouraged, supported and required by the institution. However, the educational mission should have first priority.

Industry has been moving away from merit based on individual performance as it has been found to be divisive and often counterproductive. The new emphasis is on team merit which has proved to be more effective at achieving desired results. Merit pay based on department or program evaluations would be more equitable and have the added advantage of bringing peer pressure to bear on working together, developing common goals, and overall productivity. This should not affect the diversity of teaching or viewpoint within programs. If criteria are defined to include educational concerns such as student performance, accomplishment, and curriculum enrichment, it could do much to improve the quality of instruction.

Assessment of teaching effectiveness should not be based solely on student evaluations. Administrative reliance on student evaluations is yet another example of administrators relying on statistical evidence in determining value. Students are prone to communicate their likes and dislikes; they often do not have the overall perspective to properly evaluate the quality of instruction. It might be several years after graduation before students can properly judge the value of instruction they received from a particular teacher.

Over-reliance on student evaluation of teachers is corruptive to instructors who may be susceptible to pressure. By connecting student evaluation scores with merit pay, retention, promotion and tenure, institutions exert pressure on faculty which can adversely affect grading, performance and discipline as teachers concentrate on obtaining higher student evaluation scores. Student evaluation of teachers is useful and should not be eliminated. However, the weight put on student scores by administrators is too heavy. A more accurate means for assessing teaching effectiveness is a combination of, administrative, peer and student evaluations, examining the level of work done in class as a whole, and tracking the success of graduates.

However, it should be pointed out that restoring teaching to a first priority is insufficient in itself to significantly raise the level of educational effectiveness. There are numerous other factors which must be addressed such as educational standards, admissions, resources, faculty qualifications, institutional focus and administrative policies, practices and attitudes.


Operational and Instructional Budgets
A previously mentioned report by The American Association of University Professors at the University of Arizona notes that the annual budget allocation for instructional purposes dropped from 29 to 25 percent. During the same period, administrative budgets increased from 4 to 6 percent. It is likely that these percentages also reflect what is happening at other state universities. In hiring administrators there are often financial considerations above those bearing upon hiring of faculty. Administrative pay-scales are much higher. A recent Associated Press article in a regional paper, reported the findings of a Michigan legislative committee. Lawmakers say they were taken aback by how much Michigan’s public colleges (universities) are paying their administrators, and they hope the schools learn more about fiscal responsibility...We were somewhat appalled at the results of the inquiry, said Rep. Morris Hood, Detroit, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. He noted that salaries for the leading 20 non-faculty officials at Michigan's "big three" universities, The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, added up to $9.1 million, an average of $166,000 for each of the sixty people. Proportionately higher pay-scales for administrators than faculty hold true at middle and lower levels as well. These are mostly university operational positions and do not include academic support services.

An important subdivision of administration is academic support
services which include libraries, advising, financial aid, registrar, student records and similar support functions related to students and educational programs. My perception is that educational services are frequently understaffed with relatively low salaried employees. Administrative excesses are believed to be centered in university operations which include a large number of auxiliary organizations.

Administrative appointments usually involve added costs for support staff, operating budgets and space; they create another level of responsibility and decision-making. In all fairness, many administrative offices have resulted from new state and federal regulatory requirements. Yet, most state universities are still top-heavy with operational managers earning high salaries.

Conditions today suggest that administrative costs are eating into instructional budgets, rather than coming from new resources or other university operational budgets. The 60 percent increase in middle management between 1975 and 1985 mentioned in the Pew report is staggering. How these percentages were established and what institutions were studied is not known, but it probably points to trends at most state supported universities.

Even though budgets generally have increased each year, it is evident by the growth of administration and increase in auxiliary programs and activities, that most universities since the 1970s have proportionately reduced the percentage of funds allocated for instructional purposes. In addition to teacher salaries, there are educational factors such as equipment, curricula enrichment, and program operating budgets. The principal exceptions to reduction of instructional resources are programs with potential for generating substantial research grant income.

Reduction of department or program operating budgets most directly impacts on students' education. These monies are used for faculty development and educational projects, materials, equipment, speakers or other studio or classroom requirements. When there is a decrease in university funding or budgets are frozen, it is program budgets that proportionately suffer the greatest curtailment. Program operating budgets deserve more attention, and should receive a higher priority.

Faculty need to know about college and department budgets and have more input into how funds are allocated within their areas. Far too often, Deans and Department Heads allocate minimal operating budgets to programs, and retain large discretionary funds. In the worst situations, they use the discretionary money to support pet projects, reward cronies or buy loyalty to their position through allocating funds to key faculty members.

Some examination of the balance between university operation and educational goals is in order. Shifting of funds back into instructional budgets is mandatory if educational quality is to improve. Of particular concern are operating budgets at the program level which most directly benefit students.

There is little question but what university management its size, policies and practices have an indirect, but enormous, impact on educational quality. One of the principal difficulties with bureaucratic administration is the tendency to impose broad standards and policies equally on all educational programs which are so completely diverse in their needs, objectives and operation. As an example, an institutional goal to have one teacher for every twenty-two students. Some programs because of the content and objectives may need more, some can do with less.
The problem of management and leadership in state universities is serious.

The quality of both is dubious in far too many instances, and there needs to be more separation of the two roles. The quality of management and leadership is probably more important to educational quality and faculty well-being than additional resources

 
 

 

 

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