The Faculty-Administrator Relationship: Partners in Prospective Governance?

By Del Favero, Marietta; Bray, Nathaniel | Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

The Faculty-Administrator Relationship: Partners in Prospective Governance?


Del Favero, Marietta, Bray, Nathaniel, Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly


Abstract

In this article the authors examine characterizations of faculty-administrator relationships, in particular as related to shared governance. Two primary perspectives guided the study. The first perspective focused on the fragile nature of shared governance, characterized by a lack of harmony and mistrust. The second perspective focused on the root of faculty-administrator tension as both cultural and structural in nature. The study illuminates problems associated with shared governance, attributed primarily to the conflicting cultures within which faculty and administrators work. As well, the authors articulate a three dimentional frame including holistic descriptions, participant perceptions, and participant behaviors, which characterize the dynamics of faculty-administrator relationships. Dispositional contexts associated with these relationships are further examined.

Background

The faculty-administrator relationship in colleges and universities is Central to the effectiveness of shared governance (Breslin, 2000; Guskin, 1996; Westmeyer, 1990). Yet, the literature on this important relationship and its implications for institutional governance is disjointed and haphazard and has yet to be taken up by scholars in a serious way. One gets a general sense from the higher education literature of a relationship that is at the very least challenging, and at the extreme is adversarial and conflict-laden. This perception, to the extent that it represents reality, is problematic given the requirements of shared governance calling for "joint effort" and "inescapable interdependence" (American Association of University Professors [AAUP], 1966). We believe study of the faculty-administrator relationship is important in informing the burgeoning literature on governance and its effectiveness. This paper synthesizes what the governance literature tells us about this all-important relationship and advocates the necessity of its study as an independent line of inquiry.

The dynamics of the faculty-administrator relationship are important given that faculty and administrators hold very different views of how their institutions function (Bensimon, 1991; Blackburn & Lawrence, 1995; Peterson & White, 1992).The differences may be expected, but are worth noting given that academic administrators tend to have come to their positions from the faculty ranks (Blackburn & Lawrence, 1995; Cohen & March, 1974; Dill, 1991). However, once in an administrative post, the administrator is often viewed as being increasingly removed from central academic concerns, at least in the eyes of many faculty (Birnbaum, 1988). These groups therefore are marked by conflicting interests (Leslie, 2003) and values conflicts (Dill, 1991), and represent at best an uncomfortable alliance (Guffey & Rampp, 1998). In the past, faculty might avoid these challenges by opting not to participate. Increasing external pressures, including those for faculty accountability, are necessitating greater faculty participation in decisions that are impacting their welfare more than ever before. Increased use of part-time faculty for example, has put more pressure on tenure track faculty to participate in governance processes (Morphew, 1999). The challenges of fostering a climate valuing joint effort and the interdependent nature of faculty and administrator work can no longer be ignored.

Kezar and Eckel (2004) have pointed out that the scholarship on how Groups interact in the governance process is minimal. There has been a coinciding press for a comprehensive body of research on this topic becoming increasingly evident in recent calls for revitalized governance systems (Benjamin & Caroll, 1993, 1998; Braskamp & Wergin, 1998; Chaffee, 1998; Greer, 1997; Gumport, 2000; LLawler Mohrman, 1996; Peterson & White, 1992; Rhoades, 1995; Schuster, Smith, Corak & Yamada, 1994; Tierney, 1998). At least some are calling for new paradigms for thinking about governance. …

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