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Business Officer Magazine

Feeling Faculty’s Pain

With colleges and universities under ever-increasing pressure to reduce costs and improve outcomes, the need for collaboration between academic and administration interests has never been greater. In the featured session "From Parking to Productivity: Understanding the Faculty Perspective," panelists offered suggestions for improving relationships and building trust between these two entities.

The first step is clarifying who constitutes faculty, and this definition may vary from one institution to another. Beyond tenured faculty, does this include adjuncts, administrators on staff who teach an occasional class, research assistants and associates who may not teach in the classroom but are in labs doing research side by side with students? All have a voice and an interest in the day-to-day operations of the institution. Also important to bear in mind is that because faculty are not a homogenous group, their perspectives and proposed solutions to institution challenges may vary widely.

Successfully harnessing the natural problem-solving abilities of your faculty requires instilling trust that they will be heard. Even issues like faculty workload and productivity can be addressed successfully if done in a manner that invites faculty to focus on the outcomes and value they provide, rather than on the number of hours and students in the classroom.

Spending time getting to know faculty and showing interest in their work can go a long way in establishing connections that lay the groundwork for long-term trust. So can inviting faculty to be active in the decision making of the institution focused on its financial sustainability. Divisions are created when issues related to resources are segregated into academic versus administrative, rather than treated as central to the mission of the institution overall. Taking the time to explain market pressures and to contextualize those with regard to institution operations provides the backdrop for mutual problem-solving.

With the increasing number of adjunct faculty and courses taught by adjuncts gaining prevalence on campuses across the country, there is a growing need to consider how these individuals will be heard and involved in decision making. No matter how faculty is defined by an institution, the need for respect and inclusion is real, and providing some sense of permanence or predictability surrounding their jobs is vital.

For more on this topic, see the "On Balance" interview with Ellen Harshman.

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