Sunday, June 01, 2014
Thoughts on “Positive Academic Leadership”
In a sense, the people who most need to read Buller’s book aren’t the ones who already mostly practice it. They’re the ones who wonder how it is that the relatively soft-spoken person who rarely barks commands somehow keeps getting good results. To those folks, I recommend Buller’s book highly. Read it, reflect on it, and reflect on it some more. It may explain a few things.
Still seems like good advice.
But the faculty members (even the untenured ones) at a college or university aren’t really just employees. They are treated as independent professionals, who have a fairly large amount of autonomy in how they perform their jobs—the administration usually does not try to tell them how to do their research and does not dictate how they teach their classes. Unlike employees in a corporate environment, faculty members in most colleges and universities have academic freedom. If the administration tried to micromanage the research and teaching done by their faculty members, it would probably be about as effective as trying to herd cats.
The job of the upper-level administration is to set overall policy and direction, and this can often involve financial considerations, which can at first sight appear to be selfish and narrow. This can sometimes involve the closing of some departments and the expansion of others. Sometimes even tenured faculty have to be let go in these realignments. But this must be done with the full consultation of the faculty at all stages in the process. It is of course very unlikely that a faculty member will silently consent to the closing of their department, but this consultation must be done. Faculty members, just like administrators, have their own economic interests to protect, and these must be noted and respected.
Part-timers and untenured faculty members can be let go by simply not renewing their contracts, but early retirements and voluntary reassignments should be considered before any tenured faculty members are terminated.
Remember that as an administrator that you have to make some tough decisions that will certainly get some people very angry with you. But if you want to be loved as an administrator, as Punditus Maximus says, get a dog.
The president at Quinnipiac certainly did this all wrong and got just about everyone pissed at him, and as result he was terminated. I understand that he can drop down to a tenured faculty appointment at Quinnipiac, but I suspect that his life there will be a living hell, since just about everyone there probably hates him.