The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 19, 1993- Page 5
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' he University and
I:= the Graduate Employee
Organization (GEO) have
recently been trying - as
they do every two years - to
hammer out a contract for the
'Jniversity's teaching assistants.
The result has been conflict.
Disagreement. Ill feelings. Stalemate.
Since early December, University adminis-
trators and faculty members in the Department
Population Planning and International Health
PPIH)have been arguing about the fate of the
small program - at issue has been the degree
to which faculty and students were consulted in
'the evaluation process.
<Once again, the result has been conflict.
Disagreement. Ill feelings. Stalemate.
When it comes to drafting University policy, all
parties have their own agenda. Factions on different
,sides of important issues are often unable, or unwilling,
o hear each other's perspectives, creating a dangerous
state of affairs.
.', Communication breakdown.
The numbers alone complicate communication between
:administration and faculty - approximately 3,721 faculty ar
administrative personnel, and more than 34,000 students strugg:
to make their mark on the University.
With faculty members concentrating on research and teachi'
'" ,ad administrators concentrating on policy-making and mana
ment, the outcome is a division of tasks that should be interwo
at an institution of higher education.
Sociology Prof. Gayl Ness said faculty has little expe-
.rience and often little interest in University man-
agement because of what he called "cul-
tural" and "structural" barriers.
rier is largely created by
the Fleming Building -
home of administrative of-
fices and the heart of Uni-
*'versity policy making -
which he said is "often per-
vaded in something I can only
call an anti-faculty and anti-stu-
Structurally, he said faculty
members lack a sense of a common
institutional position because recog-
nition is so heavily based on indi-
"Managers talk a great deal among
themselves and very little with the fac-
ulty. Faculty talk very little among them-
selves and only individually with adminis-
trators," he said.
This division of labor has caused some
members of the University community to
liken the institution to a corporation - com-
plete with hierarchy, exclusive management
and aprofit-driven philosophy.
This pervasive attitude cost the University
one of its most-recognized professors.
After 28 years of teaching, English Prof.
Bert Hornback resigned from the University in
"The corporate entity which uses the title
The University of Michigan' is asham. Those
who run it - and so many of those who work
in it-areno longer interested in teaching, and
they care not the least about students," he
wrote in a letter announcing his resignation.
But communication is a two-way street.
t While institutional channels such as the
work equally vigorously on all issues. You have to rank (the
issues) and pick the ones that are most important.... I think
it's an important job, but faculty don't and can't run the
Many faculty members are also inclined to be interested
in governance at the level of their particular school. Deci-
sions that faculty deem important - issues concerning
teaching, courses and curriculum - are not made at a
University level, so faculty pursue limited contact with the
The bond between school executive committees and the
central administration is very weak, Penchansky said.
The communication gap is also prevalent among differ-
ent groups of faculty members.
None of the University's 19 schools has any structured
or mandatory faculty meetings. And only a small number of
faculty attend the few existing meetings, since there is such
a large professorial focus on external projects, Penchansky
Senate Assembly- to speak about issues of common
"We are all trying to find effective ways of building trust.
We haven't succeeded completely," Whitaker said.
But some faculty members said the administration ig-
nores the SACUA requests and perspectives.
"About one year ago, SACUA said it would not be
ignored by the administration," said Art Prof. Alfredo
Montalvo. "They still say they are ignored."
Duderstadt and other administrators said communica-
tion is facilitated today by electronic mail - a system that
has the potential to increase rapid, effective correspondence.
Duderstadt is available on electronic mail to any student
or faculty member who wishes to voice an idea or concern.
He said he replies within 24 hours to all e-mail messages.
But technology is not necessarily the answer. In fact,
Duderstadt said he thinks communication problems have
escalated over the past several years with the growth of the
University and its large-scale operation.
Duderstadt added that he believes a lack of faculty-
administration communication "is true on any college cam-
But similar problems do not seem to prevail at smaller
colleges and universities, where administrators and faculty
often claim to have effective communication.
At Amherst College - a liberal arts college in Massa-
chusetts with an enrollment of 1,575 undergraduates -
faculty members said they did not see any need for improve-
ments in faculty-administration relations.
Terri Allen, news director at Amherst, said all 165
Amherst faculty members meet with the university presi-
dent, administration and staff at mandatory meetings twice
"Every faculty member gets to talk and debate," Allen
said. "The faculty is very involved in the governance of the
Allen said the size of the school makes communication
easier - since it is possible to walk from one end of
Amherst's bantam campus to another in less than 10 min-
Because the University will not be shrinking in the
foreseeable future sand because many faculty say the com-
munication gap is continuing to widen, some efforts have
recently been made to alleviate the problem.
The most recent faculty effort was the proposal to obtain
a "Faculty Perspectives Page" in the University Record -
a publication written for faculty, staff and administrators.
The page would appear once a month and consist of
articles and essays written by faculty members.
The plan, which has been raised several timesbefore, has
most recently gotten the attention of SACUA and the Senate
Human Genetics Prof. George Brewer presented it to
SACUA last semester, and the proposal was largely ap-
proved by University faculty.
'Managers talk a great deal among them-
selves and very little with the faculty. Fac-
ulty talk very little among themselves and
only individually with administrators.'
- Gay! Ness
tionally tune out of University policy making because they
do not directly benefit from it.
"'They recognize they are evaluated in somewhat an
objective and external fashion very frequently: by students
in class, by colleagues reviewing article, book, or grant
Administrators said the primary hindrance to adminis-
tration-faculty relations is the immense size of the Univer-
"(The University) is a big, complex institution," Univer-
sity President James Duderstadt said. "We work very hard
But even this seemingly simple idea has been difficult to
implement. Problems have arisen concerning who will write
for the page, who will edit the essays, and what topics will
Joseph Owsley, director of News and information Ser-