If there is one way to sum up my first three months as a Faculty Senate Chair, it’s that I’ve taken the red pill that unearthed the reality of 2014 higher education. If there is a second way, it’s in this “Plight of the Public Regional College” article in the Chronicle (warning: paywall).
This red pill exposed me to conversations where previously, I was not fully in the know. As a faculty member, I’m in the center of my world of teaching and research. But, when I learned what kept upper administration up at night, I saw that many colleges face declining enrollments, which forced discussions on ways to either bend the curve upwards or to right-size. While the latter is a viable option in the strategy textbooks, it’s not the go-to plan for schools that depend on state aid.
I get to straddle the fence between administration and faculty, which, pun intended, can lead to painful situations at times. Some faculty think that administrators just want to make faculty lives miserable, and some administrators have good intentions, but the lack of (or time away from) classroom experience can lead to decisions that are not in sync with conditions on the ground. A less confrontational view of this struggle is that because of a career that involves tunnel vision, faculty may find it difficult to grasp university-level problems, while administrators have to make tough decisions to appease multiple stakeholders – which ultimately will not make everyone happy.
There are days where I wish I had my own school. But, in the big picture, this is a valuable “internship” in modern university life.