Peacemaking 101 August 9, 2018

Peacemaking 101


You are the chair of a department of six full-time faculty members. You have been chair for three years, are tenured, and hold the rank of full professor. Four of your faculty members are tenured, three hold the rank of associate professor, and one, Dr. Bill Dudas, is a full professor. One faculty member, Dr. Amanda Thompson, is a tenure-track assistant professor in her fourth year at the university. You consider Thompson your most valuable and productive faculty member. She is a master teacher, a great scholar with many databased articles published in highly regarded journals, and on five university committees as well as three key committees in the department. She is project director for a US Department of Education five-year grant to fund students in the department’s master’s degree program.

dealing with Problem Faculty July 30, 2018

Seven Steps for Dealing with Problem Faculty


In a survey of America’s academic chairs almost 3,000 participants identified “dealing with problem faculty” as their greatest concern (Crookston, p. 13). The title of this article is not “seven easy steps for dealing with problem faculty.” The task was number one for a reason; rehabilitation is difficult and in rare cases may not be possible. Whether your problem person is a low achiever, a passive aggressive, a prima donna, a bully, or an exasperating jerk—you’ll probably spend far more time dealing with him or her than you want. One challenge is that problem faculty members are seldom self-made deviants; usually they are the product of ongoing department-wide neglect. From my experience as a department head and dean plus my research into the literature on leadership and chairing, I have identified seven steps that can help.

listening well July 26, 2018

Listening: The Greatest Compliment


My responsibilities as associate provost and dean of instruction position me to serve as a sort of academic ombudsman, a person who receives concerns raised by both faculty and students and who, when necessary, facilitates the proper execution of the university’s grievance procedures. Given the typical demeanor of an aggrieved individual, I sometimes have the opportunity to engage someone who is a) frustrated and demanding restitution, b) mortified and seeking reconciliation, c) belligerent and threatening litigation, or d) a quixotic mixture of all the above. By their very nature, such engagements are seldom comfortable; indeed, the level of discomfort makes the all-important task of listening well difficult—but not impossible. Creating an environment that gently separates the emotional from the rational is the first step in addressing a grievance and perhaps defusing it.

Positive Effects of Conflict July 24, 2018

Positive Effects of Conflict


Conflict is inevitable—it is the natural outcome of human interaction, the result of competing ideas or options. However, anger, grudges, hurt, and blame are not inevitable. Being disrespectful and uncivil is a conscious choice that causes inefficiency. Fortunately, not all conflict is negative. Positive conflict can improve problem solving, clarify issues, increase participant involvement and commitment, and result in a better decision or outcome. The key is managing conflict to bring about these positive effects.

change initiatives July 23, 2018

Collaboration at the Heart of Successful Change Initiatives


Successful change initiatives are driven by leaders and their teams, not solely by an individual chancellor, president, or dean. In the higher education environment, the individuals at the helm work strategically to develop a bold vision for their institutions and then devise an inclusive pathway of collaboration to achieve that vision. As the frontline change agents, they seek ways to influence and reframe opinions about newly proposed strategies that address trends in student needs, financial shortfalls, academic excellence, student access, and expectations of accountability. However, it is through a shared-governance model that they are able to create buy-in for change initiatives from a complex array of campus constituents.

clock time June 11, 2018

Clock Time Versus Piece Work in Higher Education


Albert Einstein is credited with the observation that “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Perhaps nowhere is this principle truer than when trying to evaluate the work of faculty members and administrators in higher education. Yet the difficulty of the task rarely stops anyone from trying to count the uncountable and assess the unassessable.

diversity May 25, 2018

What Encourages Faculty to Include Diversity Materials in Their Courses?


Incorporating material that addresses diversity issues in classes has positive effects on a number of learning outcomes. The success of efforts to make curricula more diverse depends to a large degree on faculty willingness to incorporate these materials because control of the curriculum remains in faculty hands—both collectively, in terms of course and program approval processes, and individually, in terms of daily decisions about what to teach.

colleagues May 21, 2018

When Colleagues Are Brats


Have you ever left a meeting in which you were trying to work with some colleagues on aligning the curriculum for a course that several of you teach, and decided that the best (printable) word to describe a colleague was “brat?” Does it seem like there is someone in your work environment who has a chronically poor attitude?