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Two Topics: fear and cheer

26 Mar Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Two Topics: fear and cheer

As a new blogger but also an administrator, I am trying to make sure I don’t overload with good news. My guess is that most administrators have to be relatively optimistic, which inclines us to good news stories, and of course we always want to present our institution, and through this ourselves, in a favorable light. I don’t want to overlook obvious problems, even though I have to admit a few issues are too complex or touchy to be evoked in this medium. So this time: a nasty issue that has troubled me for some time, but also (the rosier side) a totally different bit of good news.

This is the season when, at Mason, faculty are invited to evaluate top administrators. Every year this happens I hear about faculty (I think a small number, but one would be too many) who are afraid to participate because they fear their dean or provost will find out and retaliate against them for any criticism. I honestly don’t fully know why anyone feels this. In the first place the process is pretty well protected against identification outside the Faculty Senate office. More to the point, I don’t think we have, overall, a retaliatory culture, or clear cases in the recent past where retaliations have occurred at least among the current administrative crew. Perhaps, of course, I’m just naive or ill-informed. It’s a very difficult problem either to identify or to remedy. I’m tempted to ask for thoughts and suggestions, but I wouldn’t want to put anyone on the spot.

Totally different topic, but by way of contrast. We just this week had the exciting conference about 1989, including the visit of Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a great event, but the reason I offer a shout out is because of the extensive, animated and intelligent involvement of our students. One panel participant who’d been on our faculty in the past, experiencing the creative engagement of our students in questions and discussion, explicitly noted how things had changed since his time here, and very much for the better. Indeed, the students are one of our great strengths, and it was a joy to have an event when so many were so constructively involved.