LSU Faculty Senate Publications

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-2011

Abstract

Message from President: It would be fair enough to borrow from Shakespeare and proclaim the long budget crisis, which bodes to run from 2008 until 2013, as the fully nuclear winter of our discontent. Alas for the spirits of sorrow, the perpetual summer of our tropical state leaves us without adequate imagery to describe the gloom that pervades a campus that has been daunted by the people’s penury and demoralized by unaccountable private critics of exposed public servants. As Shakespeare well understood when he analyzed King Richard III, the deformity of the world eventually deforms even the strongest soul. Several of these “welcome” columns having been dedicated to the shortcomings of the administration; this column will make some suggestions about ways that faculty may avoid deformation by the slings and arrows of a university too poor to support an archery program. Faculty members should think twice before grafting themselves onto the organizational structures that repress them. They might begin by asking for whom they work: for their departments, for their colleges, for their universities, for the people, for the spirit of investigation, or for something else? Over large periods of time large numbers of faculty members tend to identify with their home “units” even when given a chance to break out of those pens. All too many committee meetings start out with comprehensive goals but conclude with ruffled feelings about departmental prerogatives. Similarly, faculty members need to break the institutional habit of leading by following: of asking for a model of innovation rather than creating a new plan that others might imitate. If there were ever to be a forbidden speech list at a university, it should include phrases such as “I like that idea, but before we move ahead I’d like to see what Ouachita Baptist University is doing.” Third, faculty could be more imaginative in seeking leaders. Rather than devising overblown boilerplate descriptions of administrators like those in prominent professional journals, they should critique the prejudices that animate and mislead those involved in the search process (for example, asking whether the old ladder system, in which professors became chair and then climbed to deanships or higher offices, might lead to exactly the wrong sort of localized vision). Many other illusions need debunking, whether the notion that small class size is always good, the feel-good theory that all colleagues enjoy equal standing (a false promise that leads instructors to neglect their options for negotiating fair contracts), or the hopeful notion that retaining faculty members at great expense will lead to trickle-down benefits for the rank-and-file. The administration is not the only perpetrator of bad deeds. It often only reflects the unexamined expectations of its constituents. Wouldn’t it be nice simply to say, “no, I’m not excited about this or that initiative; no, I don’t see evidence that the LSU South Campus is leading us into the future; and, yes, I think that I can do something original rather than importing a model from some half-baked poorly selected peer-aspirational institution?”

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