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Management Educational Conundrum page 3

 
 

Rewards and Efficiency
Another good example of the difference in values currently is found in the priority set by administration on research, and how faculty are rewarded for professional activity, research and success in obtaining grants. It reveals that administrators are more concerned with income (operational) than with teaching (mission.) Examination of criteria and the rewards for professional activity/research compared to those for teaching makes the point very clear. One has to wonder what the state of higher education would be today, if in the past, administrators had been as critical and demanding for professional involvement and excellence in teaching as they are now for research.

Management places a high value on efficiency. Educators are more concerned with what is effective, efficiency be damned! My experience has been that the conditions most conducive to student learning experiences are at times extremely inefficient and expensive from a managerial viewpoint.

Managerial efficiency is based on control, and administrators place a high value on a smooth management operation. Unfortunately, this frequently leads to a boss and employee relationship between administrators and teachers. Often there is an accompanying element of managerial paternalism which destroys trust between the two groups and leads to resentment or cynicism among teachers. Administrative paternalism is most evident in the comparison between what is allocated to program budgets and how much is retained as discretionary funds. The practice is indicative of the premise that faculty are financially irresponsible, an attitude deeply resented by faculty. In their zeal for efficient management, it is not unusual for administrators to subject teachers to inappropriate criteria in judging performance. It often is the dedicated teacher who persistently agitates for larger budgets, more facilities, additional space, enlarging the faculty, and who frequently questions administrative policies or decisions. Too often, these individuals are identified as being troublesome, unloyal to the administration, as not being team players or as boat rockers. Being viewed as an impediment to the smooth management concept, some dedicated teachers are punished in terms of program support, salary, promotion or tenure.

On the other hand, there are always a few teachers who view teaching as only a job and their interests are more in personal work or in off-campus activities. Not having any deep convictions regarding education, they accommodate administration at most every opportunity. Because of acquiescence, they often are viewed by administrators as being loyal employees and are rewarded accordingly.

 

Change
When I was an institute professor, one of my charges was to form a committee from the faculty at large to work with communications. I had recently read an article by Warren Bennis on change. Because so many individuals resist or fear change, he suggested identifying those individuals who are comfortable with, and promote change, as an advisory committee when it was necessary to make institutional change. I decided to adopt this strategy. I made inquiries over innumerable cups of coffee at the cafeteria with many different faculty from throughout the university. I also consulted with administrators and Deans. Finally my list of eight faculty members was complete and it was submitted to the Provost for approval. After a glance, he snorted and reached for a pen. As each name was scratched out, it was accompanied by remarks such as, "He hasn't been here long enough to know how we do things." "He is nothing but a trouble maker." "I don't think this person can contribute anything worthwhile," and so on. He said he would select the committee. When the committee first convened, I had six of the best company men you could ever hope to find. So much for Bennis' theories on change.

I had enormous respect for the Provost. He was the most decisive and efficient administrator that I ever met. His responsibilities were enormous, yet he discharged his duties promptly and efficiently. He put in long hours and worked diligently. In my observation, there was only one serious flaw, he had absolutely no respect for teachers. Because of this, he felt better equipped to make decisions regarding educational matters than faculty, and this was not always so.



Income
Recent administrative pressures on faculty for research were not motivated by an intent to improve educational quality or to benefit either students or teachers. The policy was established to generate income for the institution through research grants from industry and government. While research activities significantly add to the educational environment and benefit students, faculty and institution, I am disturbed because the motivation was conceived for the wrong reasons. For a university to be competitive in research, there has to be professional leadership, strong faculty, talent and state-of-the-art facilities, all of which contribute to raising educational quality in those areas and establishing an excellent learning environment for students. However, there also is a downside. Increased pressures for research often result in reduction of time that the most capable teachers can devote to educational planning, students and academic governance. The present situation attracts, or encourages, individuals more interested in personal work than in teaching. Administration is tempted to funnel added resources into programs that produce the most income from research. This drains resources from educational programs that are important but do not attract large amounts of research money. Administrative control mechanisms invariably reduce flexibility and sustain status quo. Education is a field that is in constant state of flux and change is inherent to both the educational process and programs. Teachers who want to do things differently are usually stymied because of institutional policies. Faculty generally desire the flexibility to experiment or do things differently to improve, expand or modify programs. Particularly so at public universities, change is incredibly difficult and slow. It can take up to five years to introduce new courses or change requirements.

 

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