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Management Mission and Operation page 4

 
 

Management Ethics
The decline of ethical standards in educational management is seldom addressed publicly, but for teachers, the impact can be overwhelming. Ramifications of questionable, if not unethical, administrative practices are incipient throughout institutions. While the problem is not characteristic at every institution, nor does it exist in all programs within the institution, it is far too prevalent.

Simple lying, whether by omission or commission, is the most frequent offense. Lying is more than a matter between individuals; it is a serious management problem. Any administrator caught in a lie loses respect and trust. Inevitably, the ability to lead and manage is eroded. Lying is not only commonplace, it is tolerated by upper administrators. Lying to individual teachers, students, academic committees or faculty is rationalized by administrators as being of little consequence, and they rarely take action. Adoption of "situation ethics" is relatively commonplace in educational management. Faculty cynicism and mistrust resulting from such behavior tends to undermine and destroy feelings of vested interest. There is a corresponding reduction of faculty commitment, that is frequently reflected in teaching and participation in academic governance.

Under the table arrangements between administrators and individual teachers are extremely debilitating to other faculty members. Secret deals relating to budgets, space, grants, or other internal matters have become customary behavior in many departments.

Stonewalling, or hiding behind bureaucratic procedures, manipulation of academic governance, abusive conduct toward individuals, and failure to communicate are lesser, but still serious, problems affecting the relationship between faculty and administration.

In extreme cases, academic procedures affecting retention, promotion and tenure have been used by unethical administrators to control or get rid of faculty members who are regarded as uncooperative or disloyal. Merit pay increases have been used either to buy faculty loyalty to the administrator and reward cronies, or control dissenting faculty members. In the worst instances, administrators, or even colleagues, have deliberately used unsubstantiated charges of discrimination or sexual harassment to discredit faculty members.

In 1972, Kingman Brewster, then President of Yale University, commented in an essay on tenure, In strong universities, assuring freedom from intellectual conformity coerced within the institution is even more of a concern than is the protection of freedom from external interference. He further specified, ...this common ethic (academic freedom) also requires broad protection from administrators and colleagues within the community.

Today, there are few external threats to teachers, but tenured and untenured faculty members alike can be intimidated from within the institution. Student evaluation of teachers and merit pay assessments have frequently been manipulated by administrators or colleagues for unjust purposes. The freedom of tenured faculty members to criticize conditions within the institution is restrained by the prospect of no pay raise or promotion. Withholding reward or promotion is usually justified by an administrator's interpretation of student evaluations of teaching ability, service, professional activities or national visibility. Universities cannot afford this sort of abusive management because it destroys morale, affects productivity, and drives good teachers away from the institution.

Many faculties in state universities are already unionized. Faculty action was taken because of administrative abuse of individuals or groups, and either the loss or manipulation of academic process. If educational institutions do not improve their management practices, there will be many more faculties moving toward unionization. Poor management leads to the loss of dedicated teachers, and it can hinder hiring new personnel.


Leadership and Management in Visual Art
Faculty in Visual Art generally are not strong supporters of academic governance as compared to their colleagues in the academic humanities. Based on observations over many years, my conclusion is that most art faculty prefer a benevolent dictator to make decisions, and as few committees and meetings as possible; faculty want to conduct business on an informal level. They want leadership that is trustworthy, fair, above-board in all matters and readily accessible to faculty. Visual Art faculty want communication, but on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. They are most responsive to leadership that shows interest in what teachers and students are doing. They want a Department Head who is willing to leave the office and visit studios and classrooms. Trust, fairness and effective communication are the key traits to successful leadership. If these qualities are present, many of the formal procedures are not as necessary. Formal procedures are most useful to faculty when leadership is ineffectual or corrupt.

The style of management preferred by Visual Art faculty is not as improbable a management style as it may appear. Bennis addressed the difficulties of management in what he called the post-bureaucratic period. He identified the obvious problems of time and compromise inherent to consensus decision-making. Bennis suggested that leadership be given more latitude in making unilateral decisions, but they had to be strictly accountable to their constituency. As long as decisions were acceptable to the majority, leadership could be effective; when decisions were not acceptable to the majority, it had to be changed to continue the effectivenesst.

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