volume 43, number 5
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Letter to the Editor 5-10-2013

By Arvind Parkhe, Professor and Chair, Strategic Management, Fox SBM and Rob Drennan, Associate Professor and Chair, Risk Management and Insurance, Fox SBM

   We appreciate the opportunity to respond to TAUP President (and our Fox School colleague) Art Hochner. We closed our original submission, sent 3/23/2013, with a call for collaboration: “Working together, we can achieve even greater successes in coming years, and position Temple to be one of the finest public, urban institutions of higher education in the world.” In that spirit of collaboration, we offer the following rejoinder.

   Here’s the crux of the matter: The role of department chairs has evolved significantly over the past 40 years, but TAUP’s position hasn’t. “TAUP’s position is that the Chair’s role as the representative of faculty to the administration has not fundamentally changed” (email dated 10/24/2012 to the TAUP listserv). This position reflects a profound misreading of current reality.

   Let us state the obvious. Department chairs are part of the academic management team at Temple. Department chairs perform significantly different roles from the rest of the faculty in their departments. They have major management responsibilities. They exercise leadership. They are supervisors, and they head the department’s operational, budgetary, academic, curricular, and scheduling activities. They direct the workforce and initiate and implement rewards or sanctions. They develop the strategic direction for the department and make important decisions on P&T and on faculty assignments to teaching and committee service.

  In light of the above undisputed facts, we welcome Temple administration’s petition to remove department chairs from the TAUP bargaining unit, inasmuch as such removal explicitly recognizes a chair’s managerial/leadership role, and strengthens the chair’s ability in his/her dual role of representing the administration’s views to faculty and vice versa.

   Two final points, regarding (1) the source of new ideas for continuous improvement and (2) ensuring that faculty voices are heard.

1. We cited the urgent need, in response to profound external changes, to replace the status quo with better practices. President Hochner argues that as potential sources of novel ideas, we listed the corporate world, other well-run schools, management theory, task forces, and consultants, but “there is no mention of faculty.” Aside from the fact that task forces within universities often include faculty, status quo importantly includes faculty input through current mechanisms, such as department meetings, collegiate assemblies, and faculty senate. Certainly these are important sources of ideas, and in addition, we need to be open to receive and adopt/adapt, where applicable, fresh ideas that produce results.

2. Since President Hochner concedes that chairs do in fact play a dual role (that is, chairs are not merely colleagues]), it defies logic for him to assert that “chairs as managers would have no mandate from or real accountability to their faculty.” The surest way for a chair (or any manager/leader) to lose credibility and influence within the department is to ignore faculty input. Smart corporate managers and department chairs know that obtaining buy-in from the rank and file is paramount to reaching consensus decisions and subsequent effective implementation. Does this mean everything that the faculty want (or for that matter, what the Dean wants) is implemented? No. It does mean that this healthy discussion and two-way flow of ideas, from the Dean and from the faculty, is likely to generate good, practical decisions that will “stick.” The chairs-as-colleagues model fails to recognize this reality, and removing chairs from the TAUP bargaining unit would actually enable chairs to perform their dual roles more effectively.

   In closing, we have attempted to make the case that current realities require a rethinking of the administrative/management structure. Temple University, its academic mission, and its faculty would be well served by removing department chairs from the TAUP bargaining unit. We continue to believe that “we’re all in this together,” rather than “us versus them.” All of us – Temple students, alumni, faculty, librarians, administration, staff – want to deliver the best possible education for our students, highest possible support for our research, and maximum value to society for its educational dollars. TAUP, the broader faculty, and Temple administration each has valid, worthy goals. Why not come together and explore common ground and positive-sum solutions that will make Temple University the role model for institutions of higher education everywhere? The choice is ours. •