01:01:02 Campus Collegiality
- The organizational culture (shared values and beliefs) of public community colleges has been shaped by many factors including these: the stated mission; the distinctives of two- year postsecondary institutions; the school's point of origin (emerging out of a K-12 school district or from a technical school, etc.); the service area; the form and. nature of state superintendence; local traditions and history; and the people and supporters of the college, including their conduct over time. At Chattanooga State, our emergence from a technical institute organizationally patterned after public schools, our place in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, and our developing role within the Chattanooga area community have been important determinants of our character. We have been shaped as well by four distinct generations of faculty, by the several presidents and deans who have guided the school, and by community leaders who have actively supported the college. Our culture is thus based on our status as part of a state system, our comprehensiveness, on the unique events which moved us forward, and on our community.
- Chattanooga State has become known, as a result, for community responsiveness and flexible programming, for a less formal structure, for excellence in technical programs, and for fine teaching and innovative learning strategies. Internally, we have been largely hierarchical in governance structure. As we have expanded, we have grown into enclaves (divisions, constituencies, locations, functions), enclaves which are at some levels insulated and self-directed. Nevertheless, we agree that we are members of a flagship organization, one which is at times unconventional in order to be best. The resultant institution is robust, at the cutting edge, and always a potent force in the life of the community.
- Chattanooga State is, as well, a stressed environment. It is understaffed; employees are thus extended. There are individual and constituent claims of inequity; some employees are thus not fully bonded with the school and with colleagues. Traditional collegial relationships have not been a significant part of the culture; however, there is widespread interest in moving to collegiality as the basic relationship structure.
- What is collegiality? The collegial interest is customarily expressed in consensus-driven decisions related to issues of teaching, learning, research and public service, and in an overriding commitment to a community of learning which is forged from a habit of truth and a striving for excellence. The institutional setting of a collegial community of learning is managed as any corporate entity would be, but the academic enterprise itself is governed through the participation and consensus of the professional staff, starting with the academic administration and the faculty. The assets of the school, the site, facilities, finances, and support personnel, in other words, are directed for efficiency and optimal effectiveness by the administration. The academic enterprise which is made up of all those activities which directly foster student learning and personal development moves forward by collective commitment and corporate action. Put differently, decisions within the authority of college management are either administrative because they relate to college assets or they are collegial, that is, based on recommendation of the academic administration and the Faculty Council. The former decisions are made through delegated authority from the Board of Regents and the Chancellor; the latter are made through the same authority but also from the collective authority of the professorate and professional staff with the power of moral suasion and accepted traditions of academia.
- The benefits of collegiality are these: faculty and staff engage and support the vital concerns of the college; a climate exists where important issues are openly discussed; most important, there is emphasis on inclusion, convergence, equity and consistency, as well as on unconstrained professional expression. The last point is critical. As Edward Teller once said: "Innovation is always stronger in a free environment than from any command performance."
- In the collegial setting, one should not have to decipher events to determine direction and rationale. Events should occur predictably because they stem from open consideration and because they are consistent with institutional values. Ideally, for a community college, they should occur because they have been found to be in the best interest of students and the community.
- The collegial administrator will likely find Peter Drucker's admonitions to managers most congenial. "A manager," asserts Drucker, "is someone paid to enable those people who are able and capable of work to earn their wage. A manager is also paid not to hinder workers in the process." Drucker's point is this:
- People know they are on the payroll to get work done. They respect this fact. They also want to respect the organization which pays them and their supervisor as a representative of the organization. In turn, they wish to be recognized for their contributions in praise, pay and by being important participants in the organization's development. When they feel they are blocked from doing the work for which they are paid and when they are not informed or consulted, they lose respect for those impeding the process (the supervisor, even the organization itself). They may even redirect their energies and become unproductive or counterproductive.
- Therefore we can conclude:
- The effective administrator is a supporter who regularly empowers people to succeed.
- This form of management, management by empowerment, when united with collegiality, should yield exceptional vitality in institutional performance and unusual levels of commitment: "Pure Energy." The key is affiliation, i.e., trust relationships. Affiliation leads to work getting done because people want to be cooperative and offer their best ideas and finest efforts. People do not meaningfully carry out assignments they do not understand under people they do not trust.
- The key to collegiality is consensus building. What is "consensus" in a collegial environment? It is a generally held judgment, agreement at least among constituent leaders. It is the product of open discussions which include all those who have a stake in the decision or their representatives. Consensus building not only strengthens support for decisions, it includes information which may otherwise be excluded by the automatic filters of administrative perception (biases, limited sources of information, etc.).
- Consensus building produces productivity through people, a common vision, shared values, active conviction, focused activity. When part of a defined decision making structure which is simple in form and optimally staffed, consensus-driven governance can be achievement-oriented as well. It can have a bias for action because empowerment leads to risk taking and entrepreneurship, and because collegiality imparts the secure matrix for bold action in pursuit of excellence. This is the desired direction of my administration.
- How does consensus occur? First, by having the originator or supporter of a concept or proposal define the desired outcome. This includes suggesting means of achievement, methods of evaluation and the optimal implementers wherever they may be in or out of the organization. Second, those who have a stake in the outcome or known expertise in the field(s) involved are consulted formally for a response to the proposal. The consultation can be through administrative review, standing committee, a called task force, or by select individuals. When the concept or proposal is shaped by the originator through response(s) from those engaged in proposal evaluation, it is, as a third step, brought to the appropriate decision making authority for analysis, prioritization, assessment of resource availability and feasibility. This activity is based on determination of consistency with mission, traditions, and strategic plans; and it is based on response to this foundational commitment: To do first and foremost what is in the best interest of students and the community.
- Finally, the well-formed proposal is publicly announced and, assuming widespread support, those individuals who can perform are assigned responsibility for implementation. As Drucker notes, "Plans fail when individuals who can't perform are assigned to carry them out."
Collegial Applications at Chattanooga State
- Many espouse collegiality; few have put it into effective practice. Collegiality is often confused with governance by committee, a form of decision making which appears to be democratic in nature but is beset with problems of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, manipulation and attenuation. Sometimes collegiality is taken to mean participation in highly circumscribed and often less consequential arenas of organizational life -- down to planning social events and selecting holidays. Often it means affirming decisions made administratively in order to provide the appearance of collective commitment.
- It is proposed here that "collegiality" stand for serious participation through these avenues: (1) convocations which include individual and group responses to public challenges, responses which become mandates for general action and direction when they have consensus support (e.g., the divisional responses in January 1991 to Dr. Roueche's provocative address); (2) ever widening consideration of issues -- from task force to council to public forum and consensus (e.g., the development of a strategic plan which began with a small task force in Spring 1991 and extends to college-wide and community-wide review in Fall 1991); (3) task forces whose membership comes dominantly by recommendation of the Faculty Senate President (e.g., our eleven task forces in Spring 1991, from the Retention Task Force to the Faculty Workload Task Force); (4) representative groups (the Faculty Senate, Support Staff, Professional Non-Faculty); (5) standing committees (e.g. the Curriculum Committee); (6) divisions, departments, offices, the Administrative Cabinet, the Student Cabinet; and (7) membership on Executive Staff (as the President and President-Elect of the Faculty Senate maintain).
- It is also proposed that "collegiality" extend to students who shall serve on committees and task forces where their vantage points and interests are significant. As important, "collegiality' must embrace the larger community through the Foundation Board, the Board of Associates, advisory committees, and individuals and associations which have expertise in areas of concern to the college.
- The collegial enterprise, through these avenues of participation, encompasses all who can help forge directions which optimally respond to student and community needs and expectations. It is distinguished not only by inclusion but by equity and a driving commitment to excellence.
- By use of these many and varied points of access, participants in the ChSCC community of learning are empowered to put forward their finest ideas, help decide the course of the institution and shape decisions which reflect the best thinking of college staff and community leaders and recognize the many perspectives of legitimate stakeholders.
- What are the bounds of the collegial process? Certainly such areas as goal setting, budget development and control, relations with the Board of Regents, site and facilities planning and maintenance, support networks (telephone, computing and the like), and final selection and evaluation of personnel are administrative in nature. On the other hand, promotion and tenure, faculty selection, evaluation and professional development, academic standards, curriculum development, academic research, teaching-learning strategies are among the matters called collegial. Both lists, administrative and collegial, have shared roles. Nevertheless, it is clear: Those matters which directly impact student learning and personal development and the professional life of faculty, administration and staff are dominantly collegial in nature.
- Chattanooga State is entering a new phase of organizational life based on these principles:
- that students will be maximally advantaged by study in a setting where innovation is prized and decision making is based on judgments corporately derived and supported;
- that participants will offer their finest efforts in an untrammeled environment; and
- those efforts of all will be complementary because they follow paths chosen by consensus.
- The academic community is highly sensitive to process. The authority of administrative office must be exercised with careful restraint and guided by shared vision.
Collegiality: What Does It Mean?
- My first run at a written description of collegiality at Chattanooga State was distributed to faculty and staff in September of 1991. The focus of the document was on consensus-driven decision making, on developing openness in communication based on a habit of truth-telling, and on the value of shared vision.
- The document was part of my initial program to bring about a change in the culture of Chattanooga State from one of perceived secrecy and top-down decision making to candor and wide participation in setting the course and managing the activities of the College.
- The key to collegiality, I posited, is consensus building, gaining the widest possible support for proposed changes in matters which directly impact teaching and learning. The emphasis of the document (and the written responses to questions I received soon after the document was disseminated) was to gain faculty and staff involvement in advancing the college. Our intent was and is to build a college-wide team to enhance institutional vitality, provide clearer direction, empower employees to entrepreneurial behavior, and focus our combined efforts on what is in the best interest of students and the community.
- Since our primary concerns in 1991 were building trust and support for campus initiatives, the roles of academic administrators and the president were not fully addressed. It was noted that the "assets of the school, the site, facilities, finances, and support personnel...are directed for efficiency and optimal effectiveness by the administration."
- Perhaps now is the time to discuss the administration's role in educational leadership and thereby forge a larger understanding of how collegial decisions are made at Chattanooga State. It is clear in the 1991 paper on collegiality that the president would receive recommendations from the Faculty Senate, the vice presidents and the constituent representative groups and make the final decisions. Most likely the entire campus community accepts this. What was not specifically stated is that the president and the vice presidents have the responsibility to initiate programs and establish direction. TBR policy and practice, of course, stipulate this; and taking such responsibility is the definition of leadership. Given our collegial framework we work to introduce initiatives openly and garner constituent support as appropriate. And our planning occurs consistently through college-wide processes. Indeed, we attempt to secure as much input into the design of initiatives as time, employee interest and external constraints allow. So the Kaplan projects, for example, once endorsed by the vice president of academic affairs, were adopted after they were discussed in Executive Staff with all constituent groups represented and then with the Faculty Senate in an open meeting. There were a number of one-on-one sessions as well. The initiative was the administrations as Pharmacy Technology was the initiative of Math/Science Division faculty. We worked vigorously to get essential information to the whole campus community. We did assume some familiarity with Kaplan but some have indicated they were not aware of the organization and its standing.
- We have moved forward with the partnership with Kaplan because we believe retention is the key to our ability to keep enrollment up and standards high. We also believe we need outside assistance to make a dent in the problem. (Over several years various committees and individuals have tackled the problem but the numbers have not significantly improved.) In any case, Kaplan is a pilot program which will be objectively and openly assessed. Our expectations are high: and we will hold Kaplan to them.
- Out of the Kaplan dialogue an important question has surfaced: Given our commitment to consensus-driven decision making, should we move ahead when some continue to object?
- Clearly we are all most comfortable when we achieve unanimity or overwhelming support before acting. Indeed, in most cases when there has been significant opposition to a proposed change (as there was, for example. to the suggested thirteen week calendar), we have withdrawn the proposal or extended the discussion phase. In the Kaplan case circumstances called for a near-term decision even though there was not full consensus support. We have a critical organizational need to address: the challenge of retaining more students who take two or more remedial and developmental courses since better retention of this large population will significantly reduce the withering stress we all experience related to fall recruitment. The data are compelling. They call us to action. The limited opening for action and the opportunity to gain Kaplan support caused me to decide in favor of the vice president's recommendation so that Kaplan's impact can be felt.
- Over time these situations may arise, hopefully infrequently. Nevertheless, even in the most collegial of environments, there are occasions when the president must take the responsibility to move the institution forward. There are, in other words, times when extending the discussion phase is not the wisest decision. In these cases I will act for the best interests of the college, our students and our community.
- All this is said not to undermine but strengthen collegiality. The spirit of collegiality, I wrote in 1991. derives from shared vision, commonly held values and an emerging trust that all engaged in fashioning our college community will act with integrity. Now, even more emphatically. I am convinced that the key to successful collaborative efforts and organizational effectiveness is believing that those who propose new ideas or embark on new initiatives do so with the best interests of our students in mind. Only when there is clear and documentable evidence to the contrary should we think otherwise. Collegiality does not coexist with cynicism or rumor mongering. It thrives in an environment where ascertaining the truth is foremost and trust in the integrity of decision makers at every level is uncompromised.
Approved: Executive Staff, 05/20/09
Approved: President's Cabinet, 05/20/09
Approved: President, 05/20/09
Reviewed and Revised by: Department, 04/09/09