As the role of administration continues to rise within higher education, the gap between faculty and administrators continues to widen. This gap, although not too difficult to bridge, is affecting the way that universities are run, how important decisions are made, and ultimately the success of the respective student bodies. An important role within higher education is that of the faculty administrator. A faculty administrator is someone who does both, who has experience within a classroom and continues to teach but also sits on boards and committees working as a part-time administrator. After reading Professor Michael J. Cripps’ post on Inside Higher Ed, I understand that the position of the faculty administrator is crucial. As students, we rarely encounter members of administration on a daily basis. These are not the men and women teaching us, that are actively engaged with us in the classroom, but these are the men and women who design a majority of campus initiatives and have the final say when it comes to decisions that will impact our college experience. As a student, I respect members of administration and realize that their job is very important. However, in agreement with Professor Cripps, maybe we need less full-time deans and associate deans and more faculty administrators. If people in the classroom were also the people making important decisions, I strongly feel that students would heavily benefit from the increasing value of this role.
Why is the role of the faculty administrator declining among campuses in the US? Cripps writes that, “Colleges and universities have adopted a Taylorist vertical division of labor that favors layers of full-time associate and assistant provosts, deans, and directors instead of a bevy of faculty-administrators with one foot firmly planted in the classroom.” He then states that higher ed needs to rethink this decision, and I must say that I agree with him. Although much less knowledgeable regarding this topic, I do believe it is necessary that higher ed as a whole breaks away from this vertical model of leadership and status and begins to even out the field so that our voices can be heard and the needs of all do not remain unnoticed. When in a position of higher leadership, I feel that it is so easy to overlook the needs of those below you. This is because your point of view is biased. It was developed within this higher position, so you have no idea what it is like to be in a position of lower leadership status. However, this bias can be padded, but it will require deans and provosts to interact more with students and full-time faculty members. This interaction is crucial to the process of creating positive change within higher ed because people making decisions must first understand the perspective of those that will be affected by these decisions. I believe this to be one of the reasons why the role of the faculty administrator is so important. Cripps continues to argue that hiring more faculty administrators is more financially sound than adding more members to the administrative staff and provides better payoff in the long run. Next, faculty members tend to stay in one place longer than deans or associate deans do. Finally, faculty administrators “are close to the ground on educational initiatives and have campus networks they draw on to advance initiatives by recruiting colleagues and building support.”
Overall, Cripps’ post did open my eyes to a pressing issue within higher education, but one that is easily fixed. By stepping away from the vertical model of administration that is currently in practice, universities will reap the benefits that come with an increase in faculty administrators. Is Cripp’s point of view biased? Yes, of course. Michael Cripps is a current professor at the University of New England, so he sees this issue from the standpoint of a faculty member. He may be unable to see the benefits from the vertical model of leadership because he is near the bottom of this model. He could see the increase in administrative staff as oppressive towards his position. However, he makes many valid points regarding the importance of the faulty administrator in the success of a university that I think should be taken into consideration by all institutes of higher education.