Current Issues

The roles we all play

Posted on November 22, 2009

I haven’t posted in a while given all the hours spent recasting the FY10 university budget. 

The budget work has led me to think more about the role of individuals in change.  There is a lot of change underway at SNHU and it is almost always discussed through the lens of organizational structure: i.e. centralizing this or that; putting a bigger emphasis on Online; who oversees adjunct faculty, merging the Bursar, SAS, and Registrar.  Those tend to be about where functions and departments reside.
The budget work of the last few weeks has suggested to me a bigger realm of change around which we have had less conversation: expectation and accountability.  Many, many of the issues we deal with today as an institution go to our routine failure to set clear expectations and hold each other accountable to them.  It’s hard to give examples without finger pointing and that’s not my goal here.  Let me instead provide some illustrations of the impact:
• It’s the frustration of spending hours sorting through errors or inconsistencies in data because someone does not know the right Datatel codes, even though that is his or her job, and makes them up when entering new students (maybe because they didn’t pay attention to the training or never got it or weren’t held accountable for knowing the correct codes);
• It is the inverse system of rewards that often means effective and engaged faculty members will get more students in their classes, more advisees, and more demands on their time while unmotivated and ineffective faculty members teach far fewer students, advise little (and often in perfunctory ways), and are rarely sighted on campus;
• It’s the frustration a student, faculty member, or fellow staff person feels when someone responds to a need with a “Not my job, go to….” response and sends one down the hall where still too often the problem is met with more of the same;
• It’s the person who loses a job because of performance, but has only ever received 4’s and 5’s on annual evaluations and never received good, constructive feedback (thus being deprived of an opportunity to improve and maybe hold onto that job in the long term, even if in the short term those conversations are more awkward and difficult).
• It’s the failure to plan well that results in last minute scrambling, unbudgeted expense, and usually a lot of other people having to pitch in to save the day.
We take a lot of pride in the warmth and down to earth and humane qualities of university life at SNHU, but as someone recently aid to me, “Everyone is so nice to everyone, while incredibly frustrated with the work of so many of their colleagues.”   On some level, the ostensible “niceness” comes to mask unfairness, inequity, and a general lowering of the bar.  It makes us a lesser institution.

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