Reaffirming Our Culture of Service
—Jay I. Sinha, Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Fox School of Business
As a university professor for over a decade and a member of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, I am heartened by the steps President Hart and Provost Staiano-Coico have taken recently to improve the workings of our cherished institution. Advancing such common-sense initiatives as eradicating dysfunctional rules and practices, and studying ways to achieve better cost savings in these budget-strapped economic times, while upholding the due scope of faculty bodies and listening to faculty voices through dedicated forums and retreats – all of this betokens the earnest commitment to continued progress and shared governance that we expect of our leaders. Along these lines, it is worthwhile to draw attention to one topic that frequently appears in faculty-administrator dialogues: the need to do a better job in recognizing and rewarding service contributions made by faculty.
When we talk about service, it is very important to emphasize that service is not what it is sometimes uncharitably deemed in certain circles – an inconsequential escape conduit for the less research-active faculty. In point of fact, the opposite is true. Service is our highest and most essential calling. When we go beyond our daily research and teaching; when we mentor students; when we write them thoughtful recommendation letters for a job or higher education opportunity; when we offer words of encouragement to those who are coping with imperfect family and work situations; when we sit on committees to make decisions on tenure, promotion, merit, and generally how to make our workplace better; when we scrupulously (and wholly unselfishly) review the research of our peers; and when we advise government officials and businesspeople – we are engaging in the most fundamental duties of an academician. And it is logical that in the normal course of a faculty member’s career his or her interest in writing articles will level off. New interests will evolve and different horizons will beckon, and they will seek to make themselves useful through service and teaching contributions. While an article in a top-tier academic journal certainly is a tremendous accomplishment, who is to say that student mentoring is worth any less since student development is the core métier of a university?
It is important to achieve a healthy balance across teaching, research, and service at the schools and colleges of this university. Over the years, regrettably, service has not been given its due encouragement, recognition, and reward – in contrast, research has been emphasized above all else. We know from recent happenings in the business world the pernicious effects that result when one single priority (i.e. greater profits) is made to dictate over all other stakeholder interests. The deleterious consequences of that misplaced organizational choice are being felt even today in communities around the country. Our onus therefore is to rebalance our priorities, to reaffirm our culture of service, and to rededicate ourselves to our students, university, profession, and community.