Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Wise and worldly readers, have you seen sustainable and productive ways to break down the unhelpful barriers without assuming that roles are simply interchangeable?
These positions would give faculty a seat at the table when administrative decisions are made, and would give faculty who are thinking about crossing over a chance to put a toe in the water.
You make it sound like the only benefit is that the faculty would feel better about decisions because they'd understand the dilemmas that their betters face. There's no doubt some truth there, but maybe an additional benefit is that more decisions would be made with substantial involvement of people who are in the trenches and understand what is actually going on in the classroom.
Is it possible, just possible, that the faculty aren't the only ones who lack a complete perspective? Just as being in the classroom rather than the admin building might keep us from considering certain factors, maybe just maybe, not being in the classroom limits your understanding as well.
I have been at institutions where admins periodically teach a class or supervise thesis projects (at schools that emphasize graduate education). I think this is a good thing, because the next time they're drafting a policy or formulating some request for report-writing, they'll have to think "Wait, I actually teach a class [or supervise thesis students], does this policy actually line up in any way with what happens on the ground? If I approve this policy, I myself will have to write one of these reports. What on earth will I say to demonstrate successful buzzword integration and synergization with buzzwordy initiatives?"
I think it would be good if the admins who make us write reports have to teach a class and write a report themselves. If they had to do that, they'd understand that these reports are about as factual as reports filed by Soviet factory managers. And the next time they talk about improving graduation rates without lowering standards, I want to hand them a stack of freshman writing assignments and say "OK, grade these, then we'll talk."
So maybe the solution isn't to rotate us into administration. Maybe the solution is to have admins teach from time to time.
Administrators who only teach one class (with correspondingly fewer students in total) don't always appreciate the problem of scaling up. There is a difference between grading 20 assignments in a week and a 100, for example.
I've also experienced administrators who see teaching as the "pleasant" side of their job - which can put a different perspective on some of the more tedious aspects of teaching.
And then there are the administrators who take advantage of being higher up the reporting foodchain to be able to miss deadlines, or make decisions and act quickly when a standard faculty member would have to make a request/get permission.
Bottomline - being an administrator who teaches can also lead to a misleading impression of what happens on the ground.
I think the biggest gap concerns information flow, which is difficult when everyone is so busy with new mandates on BOTH sides of the divide. (We submit the data, someone else has to organize it and write the reports. I'm not sure anyone has time to read them!) What we need are better meetings, less focused on presenting status updates and more on regular sharing of ideas.