Synching the Law to Resolve the Disconnection between Awareness and Action in Legally Mandated Diversity Hiring Practices in Higher Education Institutions

By Dejean, Jacqueline Sylvia | Journal of Research Administration, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Synching the Law to Resolve the Disconnection between Awareness and Action in Legally Mandated Diversity Hiring Practices in Higher Education Institutions


Dejean, Jacqueline Sylvia, Journal of Research Administration


(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Institutional change scholars rely on social psychology constructs, principles or models for designing organizational change strategies. Focusing on an understanding of the psychological basis for changing an individual mindset or managing the dynamics of a group, change scholars often develop tools that equip change agents to effectively engage institutions and steward the change process (Eisold, 2005; Gardner, 2006; Morgan, 1997). Both internal and external challenges can drive the institutional necessity for change. For institutions of higher education a legal mandate, such as, legislation, statutes, other policies and court decisions, serve as major external drivers of change bearing serious institutional risks including fines, non-fiscal punitive measures, loss of prestige and privilege, and public criticism.

Despite the high liability for higher education institutions, change scholars have yet to create a tool for implementing legally mandated change. Ideally, a tool that facilitates institutional compliance while minimizing legal liability would remedy this omission. Currently, institutions facing a changing legislative landscape must respond on a policy-by-policy basis to develop adequate plans. Each institution runs the risk of making changes that may not embed in institutional practices and result in non-compliance. Institutional non-compliance can manifest in several ways: by misinterpreting the law, by ineffectively implementing the law, or by failing to guide institutional enforcers of the law (Kern, 2014; Lipsky, 2010). Creating a remedy requires a solution that addresses each of these risks and removes barriers to effective change from a human behavior perspective.

Synching the Law: A Model for Legally Mandated Change

Framework of the Model

The Synching the Law model, created as part of this research, draws from organizational theory and legal therapeutic paradigms. Combining the generally accepted action research model (Cummings & Worley, 2008) with an understanding of organizational behavior and an existing legal intervention called therapeutic jurisprudence (Wexler, 1991), the model recommends overcoming institutional resistance to legally mandated changes by optimizing the role of the legal agent in the legal change process. In so doing, the model encourages a focus on organizational well-being and controls the stress often associated with change failures. This focus is a departure from the current practice of respondingto the law with a punitive design to deter non-compliance. The legal agent includes those who must carry out the legal rule and are not the legal, subject, or content matter experts of the legal rule.

The model nods to the conventional wisdom of the necessity of institutional policies, but also equips organizations to incorporate changes that overcome the intergroup dynamics that disconnects awareness of rules and procedures from actions evidenced in the research findings. This results in departures from expected behaviors as required by law, i.e. non-compliance. The model encourages the use of legal agents in conjunction with legal experts at every point of potential legal failure which includes understanding the rule of the law, developing the implementation process and providing guidance needed by the legal agents to overcome their embedded beliefs which contribute to non-compliance.

Summary of the Synching the Law Model

Figure 1 summarizes the models four elements: 1) interpreting the law, 2) synching the interpretation, 3) tailoring the procedures, and 4) sensitizing the implementation, and Table 1 outlines the models process flow.

This project investigated the elements of the Synching the Law, a model designed to facilitate legally mandated change in U.S. higher education institutions (HEIs). In an environment of increasing legislative burden on HEIs, this model positions HEIs to comply with the law while reducing legal liability. …

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