Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Faculty Fiasco

What is it about academics that so many of us feel the need to wax poetic about the problems associated with any process that is bringing about change? Our college is in the process of dramatically re-organizing it's structure at all levels. These changes will be harder for some of the small departments than the large ones, but the Dean has suggested a plan, which is being tinkered with by a committee of the department chairs with feedback from their departments. No one is being left out of the process and there have been many opportunities to weigh in.

One of those opportunities was yesterday, in a full meeting of the college faculty. The chairs and the dean presided over the meeting and discussion. Because there has been so much turmoil over the different re-organization models, the meeting started off with a very simple premise. A motion was introduced that essentially stated that the faculty would empower the committee of Chairs to create a small number of sub-committees, each of which will have the task of investigating a specific aspect of the re-organization (eg. Graduate education, undergraduate education, administration of the new organizational bodies, etc.). So, already we have a committee of departmental representatives begetting a new generation of committees. Great.

But here's the kicker. We don't even have a proposed structure of the college that anyone can agree on yet! Several have been proposed, but people felt that it was impossible to evaluate them without filling in the details of the models. But how are we supposed to fill in details when we don't have a defined structure? Are we supposed to waste time filling in the details of five different models? The whole thing is a giant steaming turd as far as I'm concerned, and all people wanted to do was complain about change rather than doing anything. We spent an hour and a half letting people vent about why and how they were opposed to the idea of change. One guy even started out with "I feel adrift, with no idea where I'm floating and no land in sight." This prompted me to turn to my neighbor and friend to say "I had no idea the drama department was in our college!" Maybe having two junior faculty trying not to make it obvious that they were mocking others in the college was not the best idea, but for fuck's sake.

I don't envy the dean. He is trying hard to have the final plan come from the ground up rather than forcing us into a scheme. I think that is a good idea, but it's like herding cats. Trying to get almost 100 faculty members to agree on anything is a monumental challenge, but on a completely new organization for the entire college? Epic.

Figure 1. The Dean's new job.


  1. A few well spoken, hard working faculty will end up deciding what to do. Its always this way, ground up or not the complainers will always complain, the doers will get on with it. Ground up just leads to more sifting of the crap

  2. I'm in the same boat re the restructuring and there are several senior faculty intent on sabotaging the whole shebang (that'll be another post for another time!). Meetings, committees, sub-committees, sub-sub-committees, task forces, agendas, meetings to decide agendas, agendas that list forthcoming meetings, committees to decide on meeting schedules and agendas, committees on committees, sub-committees for committee oversight ... it's all a fucking great waste of time and only serves to inflate one's schedule.

  3. I don't envy the dean. He is trying hard to have the final plan come from the ground up rather than forcing us into a scheme. I think that is a good idea, but it's like herding cats.

    No, it's a terrible idea. The Dean should solicit input and then make the fucking decision. What the fuck else does the Dean get paid for?

  4. Well, in the end I think the Dean will make the decision but I think he's giving the faculty enough rope to hang themselves with if they don't act quickly enough. It's been clear all along that this has to happen in a timely manner and so far all we have a passed motion to create more committees to investigate our options. If the committees come back with a report that starts with "I'm adrift" then the Dean will probably hand out new colored bandanas to everyone according to our new department. He might even bring in Jeff Probst to do it.

  5. Oh man, that's the kind of thing we're going through too. At least everybody seems to have a pretty good sense of humor about it, so it's always a wry, slightly sarcastic discussion. Also, they already went through most of the early drama before I got here, so now I mostly see the frustration with the lack of progress on the committees. The assoc. prof. faculty head of the committee is a good guy though, and did a good job of pulling the responsibilities together (despite the lack of support and any involvement by the other admin-type heads in the group).

  6. so far all we have a passed motion to create more committees to investigate our options

    Hahaha - we did this yesterday! We now have 8 new committees ... and there are only 12 faculty in total!!