Life can be unfair at times. It appears so can working at a university.
Our universities are unfortunately a microcosm of our larger society. They mirror what occurs in the "real world." As such they are prone to the same societal and personal frailties that plague the rest of America and its working force.
While a university's mission, vision, and goals may espouse loftier ambitions, in the end, it must deal with an imperfect system that often prevents it from achieving those ideals.
What's Hiding Behind Those Ivy Covered Walls? An Expose On America's Universities takes a closer look at these schools from a different perspective,
that of an insider who has spent decades plodding through the back corridors of many such institutions in an attempt to make a difference.
It unveils the often harsh realities of campus life for those who have chosen to work at these schools. It discusses campus culture, tradition, and politics. It examines who is hired and why. It explores both the formal and informal bureaucratic hierarchy. It speaks to the leadership within these schools as well as strategies employed to gain professional and personal influence and power. It offers a better understanding of the perspective of those who work there. It also delves into the intricacies of survival and the promises of advancement. In the end, it provides a candid, unvarnished,
and honest look at just what is really occurring on our nation's campuses.
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What's Hiding Behind Those Ivy Covered Walls?An Exposé On America's Universities
By Joseph S.C. Simplicio
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Joseph S.C. Simplicio Ph.D.
All right reserved.
Statistics from the United States Department of Education show that there are over 6,500 post secondary institutions of higher education in the United States (2001). The Digest of Education Statistics reports that these institutions enroll more than 19.1 million students. This number is up significantly from the 14.5 million that attended universities and colleges in 1998 (2009).
These institutions include universities, two and four year colleges, non-profit schools, technical and vocational schools, for-profit institutions, and career universities. Some of these schools are public and state funded while others are private, religious based, or corporate owned. These schools vary in size, mission, and vision. On their campuses they tailor their curricula to serve unique, distinctive, and specific populations.
No matter how different these schools are, they all claim to be dedicated to providing a quality education for their students. This education in turn allows these students to better achieve their career goals. Education is after all championed as the pathway to achieving both personal and financial success within the larger community.
Each day nearly 3.6 million individuals including faculty, administrators, staff, and other key campus personnel work diligently in these schools to provide this quality education (The Digest of Education Statistics, 2009). Some are powerful leaders while others are important decision makers. Most though, go about their duties unseen and unheralded. They are the invisible hands that keep the school doors open.
The outside perceptions of these institutions varies, however, there still lingers on the part of many the nostalgic belief that these schools of higher learning are bastions of knowledge where there is an open exchange of informed ideas. Others still see the university as an enclave for wisdom or an oasis for freedom, equality, and fairness.
Many believe that these values insulate those who work within these metaphorically ivy covered walls from petty politics and the influence and corruption of an outside tainted world. Life there is seen as more serene and safer and those who work to shepherd their students' through its hallowed halls answer to a higher calling.
These are wonderfully idealistic views of our nation's universities and colleges.
This book though takes a closer look at these schools from a different perspective, that of an insider who has spent decades plodding through the back corridors of many such institutions in an attempt to make a difference.
It unveils the often harsh realities of campus life for those who have chosen to work at these schools. It discusses campus culture, tradition, and politics. It examines who is hired and why. It explores both the formal and informal bureaucratic hierarchy. It speaks to the leadership within these schools as well as strategies employed to gain professional and personal influence and power. It offers a better understanding of the perspective of those who work there. It also delves into the intricacies of survival and the promises of advancement.
In the end, it provides a candid, unvarnished, and honest look at just what is really occurring on our nation's campuses.
Chapter TwoThe University Culture
Each university has a unique and cherished culture. This culture is born from the institution's history and is steeped in tradition. This tradition in turn reinforces that history and works to incorporate newcomers into the culture by instilling defined cultural values. A university's culture, tradition, and values are not only important, they are vital to the well-being of the institution because they provide stability and continuity.
In order to remain viable though the campus culture must also evolve and adapt to meet change. A university is like a living organism. At times it grows adding new programs, constructing new buildings, and hiring needed personnel. At other times it is forced to modify its focus by shedding obsolete policies, eliminating outdated curricula, and adjusting short term goals. Over time a university matures, and so does its culture. It is important though that the school maintain the core traditional values that define it as an institution.
These core cultural values are kept alive by those long tenured individuals who have dedicated years of service to academia and their university. These are the people who have weathered both the good and bad times. They have watched as the institution grew and changed. They are the keepers of the tradition, the tellers of university tales, and the bedrock of the school's foundation.
Throughout the years they have learned to work together for the benefit of the campus and its students. The interactions that occur amongst and between these individuals is the glue that holds the university together. These interactions create a unique and well-defined chemistry. They set the boundaries for complex relationships.
In order to be successful individuals must learn to understand and work with their colleagues. Administrators must learn to work closely with other administrators in order to develop and implement policies. They must also learn to effectively interact with faculty and staff to ensure that the mission of the institution is fulfilled and that student needs are properly met. Faculty in turn must forge a clear path of cooperation with their colleagues and other university personnel. Added to this mix are the constant interactions between staff, paraprofessionals, and of course students. With so many complex interactions occurring every day on such a grand scale it is easy to understand how the delicate balance of all these interactions can be quickly upset.
The culture of a university with its established traditions and values work to maintain this delicate balance. It provides a set of informal behavioral guidelines. It sets the parameters and monitors for compliance.
In each university there are guardians of the culture who work to maintain it and its delicate balance. They are the keepers of the traditions and protectors of the history and culture of the institution. These individuals include veteran faculty members, entrenched staff members, and others with longevity and seniority. They stand watch over the status quo, they begrudgingly allow only the most necessary of changes, and they usher in newcomers and indoctrinate them into the fold.
In order to be successful within a university one must learn to effectively work with these individuals. Their standing often gives them instant credibility within the campus community. They understand the formal bureaucracy better than anyone and they are the masters of utilizing the informal campus networking system to accomplish their goals. They are the ones who know the "right people" and also know how to get to them. They also know "where the bodies are buried" and how to use this to their advantage. They rarely capitulate to authority and they have the ability to insulate themselves from any real harm.
These individuals can be powerful allies or formidable foes. Garnishing favors from such powerful people can prove quite beneficial in achieving one's professional and personal goals.
The key to effectively dealing with these individuals is to understand their powerbase. They are seen as the "old guard" and their power rests in their small but tight knit unified numbers and in the influential positions they hold within the university as a result of their time spent working there. Others often defer to them because of their senior status. They are rarely questioned when it comes to the history and tradition of the university, especially the oral history of the school. Their recollections of past experiences is accepted almost carte blanche. This deference and acceptance gives them direct input and sway in the decision making process.
In addition, they often hold key positions on the most influential committees. They dominate the Faculty Senate or the Staff Administrative Council and are involved on some level in all crucial decisions that affect the campus and its personnel.
Use of institutionalized formal power is ineffective in dealing with such strong individuals. Therefore, in order to work effectively within this informal hierarchical structure an outsider must acknowledge and understanding all of these factors.
The key is to become one of them. This can be accomplished by "earning one's stripes" through longevity. It can also be accomplished though by slowly immersing oneself into their world. This means volunteering for key committees, offering to help with their pet projects, and most importantly, publicly supporting their causes whenever possible. Although one may not be able to give support at every juncture, until one can gain a powerbase it is important to not be seen as an adversary. Adversaries are dealt with swiftly and the damage caused to one's career or reputation usually cannot be repaired. Like elephants, these individuals have long memories. If opposition must be posed it should be channeled privately through other powerful campus individuals. Even the most solid wall is porous and individuals do have their own agendas. Recognizing and using these factors to one's own advantage is smart.
If the "in group" has one weakness it lies in their belief that they are untouchable. They assume because they are powerful, they will always be powerful. They surmise that by ostracizing and isolating any newcomers who might challenge their interpretation of the school's culture they will remain invincible. This conscious decision to exclude less powerful campus individuals is in the end their Achilles' heel.
These excluded and often forgotten individuals include those who work in less than glamorous positions within the university such as maintenance, facilities, janitorial services, the Information Technology (IT) people, those who are too new to have any influence at all, and those individuals on campus who are viewed as "strange characters."
These individuals may be known as geeks, nerds, freaks, or even the odd balls, but collectively they make up what is known as the "fringe" people. These are the invisible people who go about their day doing their jobs and rarely interacting with anyone outside of their immediate circles. They march to the beat of a different drummer and are seen as peculiar. It is interesting that within an institution that espouses personal and intellectual freedom that those who are "different" in any way are seen as defective and inconsequential.
Acceptance by these groups can usually be accomplished by simply spending time with these individuals, getting to know them better on a professional and personal basis, helping them achieve their goals, and by convincing them that they have worth, and in that worth they have untapped power that just needs a voice. Alone these individual groups wield very little power; however, together and unified they possess the ability to orchestrate critical and sweeping change.
If one can learn to effectively gain the confidence of the powerful and in addition gain the support of these less influential fringe groups, than that individual can acquire influence and power that is far more encompassing and far more reaching than that wielded by any one group alone.
Campus culture is indeed based in tradition; however, because it does evolve and change, it is also fluid. Power can change the culture. This power comes from those who work on the campus.
It is therefore possible to marshal untapped human resources and build an all encompassing personal powerbase through these individuals and then use that base to implement needed change while still honoring the university's rich culture and traditions.
Chapter ThreeIt All Starts at the Top: Divergent Leadership Styles and Their Impact Upon a University
Everyday across thousands of campuses loyal, hard working, and dedicated educators show up to work hoping to make a real difference in the lives of the students they serve. Little do they know that their dedication and hard work are not enough to ensure success for these students.
Universities throughout the United States are faced with diminishing budgets and growing demands on scarce resources. More has to be done with less. In addition, individual employees need to be motivated to work even harder.
The responsibility of effectively utilizing these resources and motivating these individuals lies with the head of the campus. The "boss" is known by many different names. This individual may possess the title of President, Provost, Vice President, or even Director. This person may govern an entire university or just one campus. The name is inconsequential. What is important is this individual's ability to maintain the academic and financial lifeblood of the institution. An exceptional leader is not only an expert in the areas of budget and finance, but also one who can motivate and rally the troops when the wolf is at the door.
These Chief Executive Officers vary greatly in regards to their management style. This style though is pivotal in setting the tone for the school's culture.
Although leadership styles may vary all of these administrators share one common trait. Even though they report to Boards of Trustees or superiors up the line they are in reality the most powerful individuals on their respective campuses. How they wield this power determines the fate of those under their authority. This power can be effectively utilized to the benefit of the school and its people or greatly abused for personal gain and power.
Styles of Leadership
Shared Governance: The Democratic Model
Some leaders work on a shared governance belief. They include others in the ultimate decision making process. They encourage feedback, innovation, and creativity.
This style of management offers many benefits. For example, individuals working under this type of cooperative management style are often enthusiastic and willingly take on additional new assignments and responsibilities. They do so because they believe in the shared vision that they helped create. They have a sense of ownership and pride as a result.
Working in such an environment fosters both professional and personal growth. It works to build confidence in people's abilities to do their job. As Sam Walton points out "outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish" (2010, p.1). This is essential to growth within any university.
This style of leadership also allows for new grass root ideas to filter to the top and encourages change for the betterment of a university.
On the negative side, what the leaders of such institutions sacrifice is ultimate power. Many believe it is worth the cost.
Hands Off: The Laissez Faire Model
The Laissez Faire leadership style was first identified in a major study conducted by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in 1938. Leaders who utilize this style make the choice to allow subordinates to handle the day to day operations of an institution. These leaders focus their attention on only the big picture.
There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to this leadership style.
On the positive side, this strategy permits supervisors to run their areas of responsibility with little interference. Being the experts within these areas they are free to make decisions that affect programs as well as individuals within their realm of influence.
Excerpted from What's Hiding Behind Those Ivy Covered Walls? by Joseph S.C. Simplicio Copyright © 2011 by Joseph S.C. Simplicio Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One Introduction....................1
Chapter Two The University Culture....................5
Chapter Three It All Starts at the Top: Divergent Leadership Styles and Their Impact Upon a University....................13
Chapter Four New Ideas That Are Academically Sound Are Good, Those That Bring In Money Are Even Better....................23
Chapter Five The Red Tape Bureaucracy!....................33
Chapter Six A Closer Look At The Truth Behind The Hiring Process: How Universities Really Hire....................39
Chapter Seven Portrait of the University Employee: Work 'Em To Death, or Just Leave 'Em Alone....................53
Chapter Eight The Committee: The Midwife For New Ideas....................61
Chapter Nine Working The University System: Strategies For Building A Personal Powerbase....................71
Chapter Ten Key Ways To Build Bases of Influence Within A University....................77
Chapter Eleven The Personal Touch....................87
Chapter Twelve The Art of the Favor: The Connection Between Networking and Personal Influence Within A University....................95
Chapter Thirteen Final Thoughts....................103