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Management Mission and Operation page 5

 
 

Managerial and Educational Values
A dictionary definition of bureaucracy is Government marked by diffusion of authority among numerous offices, and adherence to inflexible rules of operation; any unwieldy administration. There can be little argument that state university administrations are bureaucracies.

Underlying every bureaucracy are forces to maintain, protect, and expand the system. This hidden agenda exerts pressure on educational matters at many levels. It is difficult to do anything expeditiously; everything must go through channels. Any question not covered by policy must be approved by a higher office. There is little flexibility or divergence from established policies and procedures. Suggestions of deviation or change are regarded as challenges to the system. Individuals that consistently question or challenge the system are identified and treated as troublemakers. There is an undercurrent of administrative paternalism directed toward faculty. Administrators are prone to believe that faculty are often irresponsible or incapable of handling funds, and that they do not understand the overall needs of the university. The system is more important than any one person, and the sacrifice of individuals or programs are justified for reasons perceived to be in the best interests of the institution.

Bureaucracy deals with quantitative measurements more easily than qualitative judgments. Criteria for qualitative evaluation are often intangible and, as a basis for decision-making, tend to make administrators uncomfortable as they are more difficult to justify. In evaluating or making decisions regarding individuals, programs and services, administrators are more likely to rely on statistics as a basis for determining value. Bureaucracy is self-serving and apt to solve problems by adding more administrative offices; reducing or eliminating administrative functions is less likely to occur. Bureaucracy exerts control, and values a smooth operation based on loyalty and adherence to a given set of policies and procedures.

Faculty and students are prone to resist all forms of rigidity; they want flexibility and place a high value on individuality. It is characteristic of faculty and students to challenge and question authority. Faculty and students seek resolution of problems on the basis of feasible circumstances, believing that being managed by broad general policies and procedures is often arbitrary and unfair. They do not hesitate to place individual rights above the interests of the institution.

Faculty and student values are often contrary and disruptive to a smooth managerial operation. The clash of values between persons responsible for operation and those involved with instruction is a constant irritant which cannot be eliminated. To administrators, the working relationship with individual teachers is more important than their effectiveness in the classroom or studio. This is convincingly demonstrated by the alacrity with which administrators move against any faculty member who continually questions administrative practices or policies regardless of the teacher's contribution to educational quality.

Lynne Cheney, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, recently issued the report, Tyrannical Machines; A Report on Educational Practices Gone Wrong and Our Best Hopes for Setting Them Right. Both the title and prefacing quote are attributed to William James, American philosopher. The 1903 quote is as follows:

The institutionalizing on a large scale of any natural combination of need and motive always tends to run into technicality and to develop a tyrannical Machine with unforeseen powers of exclusion and corruption.

The quote refers to ways of doing things that are well justified in the beginning, but when established widely become tyrannical machines. To quote further from the report, Practices that begin by filling needs become detached from their original purposes, even counterproductive to them. Having been adopted on a large scale, however, these practices take on a power of their own. Of the numerous forms this tyranny may take within the educational context, bureaucratic administration is the most pervasive.
Bureaucracy is not inherently bad in itself. Sound management, even if bureaucratic, is required for the operation of an educational institution. The dilemma is maintaining balance between operation and education . After several years studying academic organization and collecting my own observations from experience, the essence of my understanding of educational institutions can be best summed up in a conundrum, In order to fulfill its educational mission, the university must first survive. However, the only justification for survival lies in the institution's ability to educate. Cheney reached a similar conclusion which was stated as follows, Unsuccessful schools that no one wants to attend will either reform themselves or be forced to close. Schools in the private sector that cannot raise operating capital because of ineffective educational programs will disappear. However, state universities, no matter how poorly they perform, will continue because of public funding. This is a serious qualitative problem. Its effects are even more critical because of the numbers of students now being channeled into
public universities because of higher educational costs in the private sector
.


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