volume 43, number 5
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Department Chairs' Response to TAUP's "Chairs into Managers" Email of 2-15-2013

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


    On February 15, 2013, Temple Association of University Professionals [TAUP] circulated an email to the TAUP listserv, titled “Temple’s Move to Make Chairs into Managers – What is Going On?” In this email, TAUP urged faculty to “join the fight against the administration’s move.”
    At issue is a Petition for Unit Clarification filed by Temple administration with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board [PLRB] in October 2012, to remove department chairs from the purview of the Temple-TAUP collective bargaining agreement.
    We are department chairs at Temple, and we respectfully disagree with TAUP’s position, for reasons elaborated below. Inasmuch as the TAUP email stated that the impact of removing chairs would be to “weaken faculty governance,” we would like to quote former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who wrote the following in a January 18, 2013 open letter to Purdue University, where he recently became president:

Shared governance implies shared accountability. It is neither equitable or workable to demand shared governing power but declare that cost control or substandard performance in any part of Purdue is someone else’s problem ….. Participation in governance also requires the willingness to make choices. ‘More for everyone’ or ‘Everyone gets the same’ are stances of default, inconsistent with the obligations of leadership.

Below are some of TAUP’s key assertions and our responses to each.

1. “The current system of chairs as colleagues is not broken. Why change it?"
    There are two basic flaws with this argument. One, the current system is not chairs-as-colleagues, but rather chairs playing the dual role of representing the administration’s views to faculty and faculty’s views to the administration. Chairs are the essential interface between administration and faculty, straddling both camps, facilitating dialogue, leading and motivating department faculty on one hand, and on the other, persuading the Dean’s office to implement necessary policy changes and resource allocation decisions that will lift up the department and the school as a whole. Put another way, the effectiveness of a chair will be severely compromised if he/she begins to represent either the administration’s views alone, or the faculty’s views alone, to the exclusion of the other side’s views.
    Two, it is a fundamental mistake to argue that the current system appears to be not broken, therefore should not be changed. Temple University, like other institutions of higher education, is in the midst of unprecedented external changes, including demographic shifts; financial model reordering (reduced state support, capped tuition rates); intensifying competition from peer and aspirant schools in the U.S. and, increasingly, worldwide for students, faculty, and resources; and the deep impact of technology on teaching, research, and outreach. Such profound external changes cause, or should cause, an internal examination where status quo gives way to better practices that will enable us to effectively cope with external demands. Whether these better practices come from the corporate world, other well-run schools, management theory, task forces, or consultants, our end goals must be to deliver the best possible education for our students (knowledge dissemination), highest possible support for our research faculty (knowledge creation), and together, maximum value to society. As Governor Daniels observed in his open letter, “the dollars we are privileged to spend come, for the most part, from either a family or a taxpayer.” Any changes to the current system that enhance the value that we generate for our students, their families, and society, should be seriously considered and implemented. Coasting along on old, ‘unbroken’ models is a luxury we cannot afford.

2. “The administration's motives for this seem to be (1) to plan for decentralized budgeting; and (2) to seriously reduce faculty power by putting the reach of management inside academic departments."
    This statement is puzzling and counterintuitive. One would expect TAUP to strongly endorse a movement away from centralized control over budget matters, and to favor decentralization that actually strengthens faculty power by putting decision making inside academic departments, rather than at the Dean’s, Provost’s, or President’s levels.

3. “If chairs were to become managers, there would be negative consequences for the faculty and for chairs."
    As noted, chairs play a vitally important dual role and act as the interface between administration and faculty. It can probably be empirically shown without too much difficulty that the most effective chairs in Temple University are those who take both of their roles seriously. Metrics for evaluating a chair’s effectiveness might include the academic department’s reputation and rankings, successful faculty hiring and student recruitment, high departmental research output, strong teaching evaluations and teaching innovations such as new, cutting-edge courses, programs, and partnerships that lead to healthy growth of enrollments and credit hours, fundraising, and so on.
    In sum, we celebrate the significant progress that Temple University has made, along multiple dimensions, in recent years. We salute Temple’s students, alumni, faculty, librarians, administration, and staff, whose combined talents and energies made this progress possible. 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. •


Response to Professors Parkhe and Drennan

By Art Hochner, TAUP President & Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, Fox SBM

   My Fox School colleagues Professors Arvind Parkhe and Rob Drennan responded to TAUP’s e-Bulletin from February, which went only to the TAUP bargaining unit. Many readers of the Faculty Herald never saw it. (Read the piece, “Temple’s Move to Make Chairs into Managers – What is Going On?”)

   They base their critique on three points from the e-Bulletin. I’ll mostly restrict myself to their points, although they neglect many other relevant issues raised in the e-Bulletin, especially about the faculty-chair relationship. In sum, they don’t make a convincing case.

   First, Parkhe and Drennan find fault with TAUP’s argument that the current system is not broken. They say that chairs play a dual role and that this role is necessary, presumably whether chairs are in the bargaining unit or not. But they never explain what the flaw in our argument is. The Temple University - TAUP collective bargaining agreement’s Article 16: Department Chairs acknowledges the dual role. What exactly do they want to fix?

   They say higher education is in “the midst of unprecedented changes,” but never put their finger on how our current chair system impedes efforts to meet the challenges. They say we need to change “old, ‘unbroken models’” but don’t say how making chairs into managers will lead us toward our end goals. Of all the sources of “better practices” they mention, “the corporate world, other well-run schools, management theory, task forces, or consultants,” there is no mention of faculty. Indeed, this disregard for faculty views seems to have been anticipated by the administration’s decision: Temple management didn’t bother to ask the faculty if department chairs should remain in the bargaining unit. Parkhe and Drennan seem to assume that strong management is the answer, not shared governance.

   Second, since TAUP’s message in February, we have learned a great deal about decentralized budgeting. The TAUP Executive Committee met in mid-March with Senior Vice President and CFO Anthony Wagner to discuss it. I spoke with Provost Hai-lung Dai in mid-April about it, too. One thing is clear now: The budget unit will be the school or college, not the department. Parkhe and Drennan thus misunderstand decentralized budgeting when they say that it “strengthens faculty power by putting decision making inside academic departments” if what they mean is that individual departments will be making budgetary decisions. Deans will likely pass down orders to departments aimed at enhancing the college’s budget picture, not that of departments. Thus, chairs, whether inside or outside the bargaining unit, would be working with the dean’s strategy for the school.

   Making chairs managers would not strengthen faculty power under decentralized budgeting. Instead, it would tilt the dual role of chairs well over to the administrative side, at the expense of chairs as colleagues and faculty leaders. Among the many points that Parkhe and Drennan neglect to mention from TAUP’s initial email, departments now operate largely on consensus decision making, with chairs chosen through significant departmental faculty input. Chairs as managers would have no mandate from or real accountability to their faculty. Their mandate would be from and accountability to the dean. They would be less likely to operate by consensus and more on the basis of the dean’s vision. Removing chairs from the bargaining unit would change the dynamics of the faculty-chair-dean relationship and would strengthen the administrative hierarchy by giving deans more direct control over chairs. This is why, despite Parkhe and Drennan’s claim, there is nothing ‘counterintuitive’ about our concern over the effects of decentralized budgeting on faculty governance, especially if this new fiscal system is to be paired with the removal of chairs from the bargaining unit.

   Third, they advocate metrics for evaluating chairs’ effectiveness, presumably so they could be rewarded for achieving the goals Parkhe and Drennan set out. But the TAUP contract is no obstacle to that. It specifies minimum compensation for chairs. Deans and chairs have the ability to exceed those minimums, with specific targets and incentives.

   So, please tell us again, why do chairs need to be removed from the bargaining unit? •