From the Editor: Toward the Faculty’s Future - The Perspective of History
—David Waldstreicher, Faculty Herald Editor
James W. Hilty’s Temple University: 125 Years of Service to Philadelphia, the Nation, and the World is the first full history of the university ever published. It’s a large-format book chock full of beautiful illustrations. It is a celebration of the university’s mission, its survival, and its growth. But it is more than just worthy of any Temple coffee table. It is also a subtle, even understated analysis of where we have been and where we may be going. (See our interview with Hilty elsewhere in these pages.)
According to Hilty, two major transformations of recent decades shaped the nature of the Temple faculty. One is the process by which faculty “relinquished their formerly prominent roles in advising and teaching undergraduates,” who now rely more on instructors and graduate students. The second was a series of retrenchments that occurred after the university’s rapid expansion—a series of events that had “a chilling effect on faculty morale” and led to the formation of the faculty union, to two divisive strikes, and to a formalization of administration-faculty relations that made it more difficult for the Faculty Senate and its committees to function as the voice of the faculty. Faculty morale was down, Hilty says explicitly, at the same time that faculty mobility, and expectations, had risen.
As he describes in his interview, Jim set out to avoid a “presidential synthesis” of Temple’s history. One of the ways he does so is by treating revered, nearly mythic early leaders like Russell Conwell and Laura Carnell with scholarly objectivity, while taking a detached observer’s eye to controversial recent figures like Marvin Wachman, Peter Liacouras and David Adamany and emphasizing their virtues as well as the real challenges they faced. This kind of balance makes for good history, but it may still be slightly too administrative an approach for the purposes of understanding where the faculty and its institutions fits in the story. For something else too has changed.
Three of the last four presidents, and more recently other senior administrators, have been hired from the outside; they tend not to last as long as presidents and deans once did. Perhaps the most striking change of the past two decades in academia is their mobility (if not their morale, about which I won’t speculate). As a result, it is more than ever the faculty—which includes some of our deans—who embody institutional memory. The fact that Jim Hilty could write this book and do it so well is a case in point. A profusion of recent studies of the “corporate university” describes and analyzes the perhaps unavoidable market and cultural considerations that have multiplied administrators and set them to work seeking to upgrade one institution after another. (See, for example, sociologist Gaye Tuchman’s Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University.) We need more reflection on what this means for the faculty, both within and beyond departments and schools.
We have been lucky of late to have a provost and president who seek accessibility and communication. The faculty, though, needs to step up and use its institutions – the Senate and its committees – to shape the university’s response to what may or may not be a new era of austerity. However long and drawn out the last contract negotiations were, they showed that the union does its job. Instead of salary cuts, (which, as Hilty mentions, faculty did suffer in the past before there was a union), we preserved our benefits and achieved compromises on raises and on significant procedures. It is time to move on to other business, and to a new kind of partnership: the kind that a somewhat less provincial-- but nevertheless rooted—faculty may be in a better position than ever to shape.
Letters to the Editor
Michael Sirover, Professor of Pharmacology, School of Medicine
"I thank Steve very much for his spirited, albeit vituperative, response to my recent letter in the Faculty Herald. I welcome it."
Steven Houser, Professor and Chairperson of Physiology, School of Medicine
"I am writing in response to a recent article written by Professor Michael Sirover and published in the Faculty Herald."
Orin Chein, Professor of Mathematics, CST
"Thank you for your editorial input in helping me cut the size of my article in half. However, somehow, in the editorial process, an error has appeared which was not in any of my drafts..."