Two concerns are often raised when department chairs attempt to address breaches of collegiality through the faculty evaluation process. The first is whether they’re permitted to do so at all, since very few faculty handbooks list collegiality as a criterion for reviews. The second is whether evaluation is an effective means of dealing with these challenges, since collegiality is often regarded as something highly subjective and not measurable or verifiable in any consistent way. The first of these concerns can be dealt with rather quickly, while the second will require a much more extended discussion.
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Perhaps the most fundamental reason why teaching and research are viewed as competing rather than interrelated activities—and a key cause of why it’s so difficult to reunite these processes in faculty load assignments and evaluation systems—is that colleges and universities themselves are structured as though instruction and scholarship were utterly distinct enterprises.
In Part 1, we examined several reasons why it’s important for universities to look at faculty work not in terms of the actions that are taken but rather in terms of the benefits that result. Of course, it’s one thing to say that changing how we view faculty roles can help promote research while advancing teaching; it’s another thing entirely to bring about such a massive change.
It’s an issue many colleges and universities are facing today: How do you expand research capacity while still preserving an institution’s traditional emphasis on effective teaching? How is it possible to improve your reputation in one of these areas without abandoning your reputation in the other? How can you expand your mission in an environment of increasingly strained budgets, greater competition among institutions (including public, private, for-profit, and virtual universities), and rigorous accountability? And how do you balance the expectation of so many legislatures and governing boards that you demonstrate student success with their simultaneous expectation that you obtain more and more external funding from sponsored research and the frequent pursuit of grants?
At the start of a new position, it’s natural to wonder how many new initiatives you should get under way quickly and which are better
Whose problem is it when there is a perception that the performance of a faculty or staff member has not been satisfactory? Consider the following scenario. A chairperson is conducting an annual performance appraisal of a faculty member and says, “Your teaching seems to have been quite good this year, based on both student and peer evaluations. Your research productivity exceeded our institutional expectations. And you served on more than your share of departmental committees, worked with the recommended number of advisees, and even chaired an important search for us. But there’s still this lingering perception out there that you’re just not a team player, that you put your own agenda ahead of the department’s. I’m worried that that’s going to hurt you when you come up for promotion in a few years. I’m not saying that this is my opinion or that it’s even justified; I’m just saying that it’s a common perception.”
With the spate of books and articles that deal with the issue of incivility in higher education, it’s easy to conclude that destructive disharmony is the single biggest problem facing colleges and universities today. To be sure, lack of collegiality has become a significant challenge, and nearly every academic leader can recall at least one department or college that became increasingly dysfunctional because of its inability to work together in a mutually supportive manner. But the great deal of attention we pay to the challenges of incivility can cause us to underestimate the dangers of an opposing threat that also exists in many academic units: groupthink.
College professors have long bemoaned the fact that they view the product or outcome of higher education differently from their students. Ask a professor what the goal of a college education is, and the answer you’re likely to hear is wisdom, knowledge, insight, understanding, or some variant of these. Ask the same question of a student (or that student’s parents), and you’re likely to hear an answer like a diploma, a job, or lots of money. That difference in perspective is certainly not new and, although some generations of college students are more idealistic or socially engaged than others, it’s certainly not surprising that American families tend to make college decisions in terms of return on investment; that’s how they make most of their other decisions, too, at least when the question involves how they should spend their money.
We tend to think of interviews as processes that select suitable candidates for different jobs. But in many ways the purpose of interviews is to reject unsuitable candidates. After all, by the time a search reaches the stage of meeting a few finalists on campus, the institution is largely satisfied that everyone being interviewed is qualified for the job. The critical question now is, Which of these finalists is the best fit for the program and the institution?
Any process that involves the hiring of a new member of the faculty or staff has to be taken very seriously. Yet when a search involves an incumbent (i.e., someone who currently occupies the position for which you are searching and who will be replaced by the person you hire) or an internal candidate (i.e., an applicant who is already employed by the institution, but in a different capacity), the complexity of the process increases exponentially. For this reason, there are several guidelines that should always be followed.