Thursday, October 29, 2009

A few thoughts about the ethical, economic and political crisis on campus

It is great to be remembered as someone who looks on the bright side of things. My teacher's heart sings when I learn that I have had some positive impact, however small, on a past student, especially one I remember fondly. I try to live by the principle that we need not borrow worry from tomorrow because we have enough to deal with today. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" Matthew 6:34. I resist the hoarding and protectionism and hallway politics that seems to afflict some of my colleagues because I am a living example of there being "more that enough work to go around".

These days, I do find it harder to keep worry at bay. We said goodbye to another dozen support staff last week -- it was an incredible blow to the Faculty of Education, to people who have contributed to the life and soul of this faculty, and these departures have left a gaping pit of sadness and no end of stunned questions in the hallways. It is hard to swallow this loss, and see a bright side to things, when veteran staff are being escorted off of a campus still reeling from a 4.5 million dollar handshake for the CEO.

However, while it feels like the self-imposed, rose-colored glasses have been ripped from my eyes, I do still believe the problems which plague this campus are complex and multifaceted, go beyond any one individual, and that much of the needed information or rationale (if one exists) for such decisions is hidden from line faculty and support staff. I do believe that campus will continue to founder until greater transparency is achieved and faculty are re-engaged in a democratic, collegial and trustworthy governance structure. I believe that I work with some of the brightest minds in higher education and that we can find a way to steer this faculty and this campus in the right direction.

It would be great to have a crystal ball, but unfortunately we do not; there are those in power who are committed to staying in power, and the Academy is not immune to careerists and power players who seriously muck things up. Therefore, I do not swallow Becker's claim that "there would have been a real chance to prevent this perversion of the Academy and change things 6 or 7 years ago when it became clear to some of us what the Pres. had planned". I sincerely doubt this sweeping claim is true. Who is "some of us" and how & what did they know? Who knew what, when, and who did they tell? Where is the proof? The "UofC = bad" and the "MRU = good" claim rings a little false to me.

A sprawling campus of 16 faculties and thousands of faculty and support staff and ~30,000 students is an extremely complex organization that is subject to many social, political, economic and academic influences from both without and within. I cannot help but think that known and unknown events and factors in the last 6 - 7 years have contributed to the current crisis and lack of meaningful engagement of faculty in campus governance; it can hardly be summed up in the nefarious works and plans of one man. We may have a new president in January; at the very least, the present prez will be gone. Who knows what the future holds for the Academy; I am fairly confident that whoever takes on the presidency will have a hell of a difficult job to do.

I keep hoping that the devastating changes across campus and within my own faculty will provide the opportunity for positive improvements, for needed changes, and for re-engagement in faculty and campus governance. I know that I am re-engaged and aim to serve my faculty well as major decisions get made about our future.

This one is for Becker: "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." - Alexander Graham Bell. I continue to be proud of your achievements at your new campus and hope for your continued success.

No comments: