Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Challenge faculty to focus on academics 

After talking with a colleague, I've decided the only thing wrong with Dick Andzenge's editorial today is that it didn't kick enough ass. Speaking of outgoing president Roy Saigo,
Because it does not have its own board, the university cannot articulate its vision and define its mission independent of other institutions in the system. This makes it hard for a president to develop a clear vision and move toward it.

Rather than attempt a forward-looking vision, Saigo chose to confront the perceived bigotry and perceived conflicts at the university. Unfortunately, focusing only on problems creates an image and a perception that the institution cannot appreciate its positive qualities.
Dick has identified a key problem: When things become disorganized (may I use the word 'malorganized' to describe deliberate disruptions of the university's organization), there is no board of outsiders you can speak to. Perhaps one reason Saigo faced so many lawsuits on this campus is the lack of this release valve, of having an independent group of leaders solely focused on the health of this university, rather than the promotion of the personal goals of someone in St. Paul.

Dick cites one example:
Many administrative tasks have gradually fallen under the purview of faculty who routinely frustrate the efforts of nonfaculty people assigned to work in those areas. Many administrative and even faculty positions have become very difficult to fill because of wrangling over the power of search committees and benefits extended to administrative ranks.

The Faculty Association does not quibble over the ranks and tenure conditions of faculty hires, which are made by deans, but vehemently opposes the granting of tenure to administrative hires, even when those people being considered had already earned tenure at similar or better ranked universities.

This happens, although the association knows that extending tenure to incoming senior administrators improves the quality candidates.
I.e., people who want to be deans here routinely are denied the ability to obtain tenure. Administrators don't want to have deans with loyalties to anyone but the president; the union does not know how to deal with supervisors as union members who supervise other union members, and it can't see how anyone who is faculty would not be a member of the union. The union has been caught in thinking of itself in industrial terms rather than professional terms for years, and it cannot escape it. Indeed, by having a president that has focused only on problems, the union has been strengthened and emboldened. It has had something to agitate against. Dick correctly identifies that as a problem.
After many of years of focusing on all that is wrong and bad at the university, I hope the new president will help us to see the university as place with hope and possibilities and lead us in discovering and identifying with those.

To move forward, the president must be able to challenge faculty to focus on academics and leave administration to those hired to do it.

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