Friday, June 19, 2009
Champions and Chairs
The release of the UT WMW group's White Paper titled "Wrong Directions at the University of Toledo: The Social Pathology of ‘Mass-Customization’ for the A&S College” (see July 18, 2008 on this blog) remains pending, as this university administration has yet to announce or implement the specifics of its “mass-customization” initiatives. However, it is timely to discuss preparation for a response should these initiatives shape up as unacceptable to quality-conscious A&S tenured and tenure-track faculty. In anticipation that departmental chairs in A&S will be pressured by provost and dean to force their faculties to bend over and accept the unacceptable, the draft WMW White Paper recommends that t/t-t faculty in each A&S department informally meet and select a “champion” to represent their shared quality-control interests to each of their respective departmental chairs. Departmental faculty members at present are too politically disorganized to put up a unified resistance to imposed change from above. Ideally, by selecting a departmental champion for the purpose of negotiating a potentially endless array of onerous changes imposed from above with a departmental chair, a typical t/t-t department faculty member’s own time and energy become freed up from everyday academic politics to permit more concentration on professional responsibilities and commitments: the continued pursuit of high quality teaching, research and community service. The departmental champions, while “unofficial” and extra-ordinary representatives of their departmental faculties, will most likely be selected from those few remaining seasoned senior faculty loyal to the UT and A&S traditions, appreciative of the core public higher education commitment to the liberal arts, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and willing to volunteer their own valuable time to help preserving those venerable traditions, especially face-to-face classroom teaching and mentoring of students on a personal scale. It would of course be preferable, according the tentative White Paper, if A&S departmental chairs were officially representing the best interests of the t/t-t faculties of their departments when negotiating change with the UT administration. Instead, the A&S department chairs are administrators themselves, having agreed to take coin to become the official working end of the administrative hammer as applied to their departmental faculties. They may be good people, but have committed themselves to wearing this present university administration's monochromatic structural straitjacket. In sum: Every A&S department with a sense of purpose and integrity, and every quality-conscious faculty member who proudly identifies with intellectual membership in his or her department, yet feels threatened, intimidated and demoralized by this present administration, need more than a Chair to protect and defend in the face of mismanagement, neglect and abuse. They need a Champion!