The Impact of Changing Culture in Higher Education on the Person-Organization Fit, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment of College Faculty

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this research was to analyze the impact of cultural change on the person-organization fit, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment of faculty at a small private college. The conclusion of this mixed-model study suggests that the movement of this subject college administration to a competitive, business-like model may have negatively affected the commitment of the faculty to the institution, but has not reduced the satisfaction they find inherent in their roles of teachers and researchers.

INTRODUCTION

The field of higher education recently has been undergoing a period of rapid change and many colleges and universities have been compelled to alter their cultures in attempts to survive this change. Historically, these colleges and universities occupied a unique place in American society. Their professed goals were to produce and promulgate knowledge, and their means of doing so were unchallenged by other groups in the culture. Largely immune from market forces, colleges and universities were able to fulfill their multiple purposes of education, scholarship, and service. The substantial social spillovers provided by colleges and universities justified government and nonprofit support for these institutions, and the institutions relied on these additional funds to supplement tuition revenues. Gumport (2000) described educational institutions as social entities, geared toward the cultivation of citizens and the preservation of knowledge and, for decades, the culture of higher education reflected this quasi-public role.

For higher education administrators to successfully adapt to change, it is important that they understand the historical culture of higher education and the changes that have occurred to that culture. The culture of an environment is comprised of the values of the individuals within it (Holland, 1973), but generalizing about the personalities and value sets of the diverse members of a college community is difficult. In fact, Bess (1984) claimed that any culture comprised of scholars is precarious at best and Weick (1984) argued that the very term "community of scholars" might be a contradiction in terms (p. 15). Despite differences among individual faculty members and among institutions, though, the shared goal of creating and disseminating knowledge generally gave rise to cultures prizing freedom, peer review, shared governance, and the "discipline of dissent" (Hamilton, 2000, p. 12). Faculty members, despite their differences, also shared common personality traits. Lindholm (2003) found that most faculty members are most content in institutional environments in which they are free to work independently, remain private, and pursue their own intellectual interests. Faculty motivation was driven intrinsically by the beliefs in the shared values the faculty members held with the institution in which they worked (Blackburn & Lawrence, 1995).

Market pressures, however, have changed the world that many faculty members occupy. The insular world of scholarship and teaching many of them entered as instructors has become one of accountability and rapid evolution. Increased competition has forced institutions to be more market sensitive in the production of their educational products, and faculty can no longer produce knowledge without consideration of its immediate applicability and market appeal (Birnbaum, 2000; Keller, 1983). Many colleges and universities can no longer afford programs that are not popular with students and have moved to develop only those new programs that the market will reward. Government agencies require accountability and businesses demand training in workplace skills. Students have become market savvy consumers (Birnbaum, 2000), financial support from the government and grants has diminished, and required investments in technology have pushed many institutions toward the financial brink (Rowley, Lujan, & Dolence, 1998). …