Management Educational Conundrum page 2


An extreme, but good example of administrative values being contrary to the best interests of education occurred during a job interview circa 1976 at a North Central Public University. I was interviewing for the position of Department Head in Art. On the second day, I had my meeting with the Dean. He asked what I would do if appointed to the position? Based on my observations, I began to describe the steps to be taken that would improve the quality of programs. After a few minutes, the Dean interrupted me to say, I am not interested in that. What would you do to increase the size of classes that could be taught with less faculty? I replied that I had never considered that, and most likely, never would. Our meeting ended abruptly and no job offer followed.

Perhaps the most blatant example of division between operational and educational values occurred while I was at Carnegie Mellon University during the early 1980s. At the beginning of the academic year, President Cyert addressed the entire faculty. He told us that the university was embarking on a new policy. The policy was described as follows: in the past it had been traditional to put institutional resources into improving weaker programs to raise them to the same level as the best ones. Now, institutional resources were going to be put into the strong programs and weaker programs modified or eliminated.

I felt pretty good about this as we had an excellent faculty who worked well together and all were dedicated teachers. The level of student work was high and our graduates were doing exceptionally well after graduation. It seemed probable that with the high quality of our program we were finally going to receive funds to build new technical facilities.

We all made the mistake of not asking President Cyert to define strong. It was not long before we learned his definition. To President Cyert, a strong program was one that generated a substantial amount of research income from grants or contracts; the weaker programs were those that brought in little or no income. Needless to say, we never received all that new equipment.

I always fantasized Cyert and his top administrators meeting in the conference room behind locked doors. Laid out on the conference table were sheets of paper with each one labeled as a program within the university. Cyert had a handful of colored markers, and as the group moved from sheet to sheet, they discussed the strength of each program. Those that were loaded with research projects received a big golden star; those that had potential to bring in more were marked with blue; those with few or small contracts but with some modification of program could do better were marked in green. There were some programs with small potential for research monies, but they could not be eliminated, i.e. College of Fine Arts. These programs received a black mark and would be maintained. Those programs that could not bring in research grants, had little potential or public relations and were small enough to not provoke a serious outcry if eliminated were simply X'd out. Faculty would be pressured for professional accomplishment creating good public relations and enhancing the university image. With every sheet appropriately coded, at a glance, administration could get an overview of the university. They could see its strengths, and at the same time, a plan for future development. It was not long before English Literature was somewhat diminished, and a strong new bias in Technical Writing was in place. Carnegie Mellon was clearly driven and managed by operational values.


Management Values
Management values emerge from agendas dealing with efficiency, control, decision-making, policies, institutional income, public image, growth or expansion and other such matters. These concerns can often be in conflict with values that are pertinent to, and in the best interests of, instructional excellence.

In terms of enrollment, management leans toward bigger is better while faculty believe smaller is better. Administration tends to be more concerned with numbers where faculty are more concerned with quality. Administrators want controls where faculty look for flexibility. Administrators are concerned with institutional image where faculty are more interested in professional recognition. It is administrators/managers that perceive the university as a business selling educational services, certainly not a concept shared by faculty or students. Education is something considerably greater than a commercial venture. The dollar is not the bottom line in education! I believe education of youth to be a societal obligation to the future that should be judged more in terms of effectiveness than in terms of cost.

Some common examples of differences in opinion between faculty and administrators relate to the use of space and access to technical facilities. Especially so in visual art programs, assigning fixed work space to students is a factor that affects student productivity and commitment. Administrators favor multiple-use of space through accommodating different students and courses at different times, allowing space to be in constant use which is more cost-effective and efficient. But it is a practice that proves to be debilitating for faculty and students.

Facilities Management

Duplication of technical facilities is another example of a situation which would be educationally effective, but from a managerial standpoint, it is extremely inefficient. If technical facilities are provided for each program with access restricted to students within that program, there will be a decided improvement to educational effectiveness. When equipment is provided for a single program, it tends to be specialized and directly related to the needs of that program. To centralize technical facilities and make them available to students from several disciplines is less expensive, easier to manage and more efficient from the administrative point-of-view. Because the facility serves a variety of students and programs, a more general range of equipment is installed that might not meet specific needs for some programs. Because of the increased numbers of students using the same equipment in centralized labs, access is more restricted than if it were available as a program facility.

Rewards and Efficiency >


Download PDF




Site Index



. 1 2 3 4

. .