Provost Presents plan to faculty for reorganizing the academic divisions

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Charlene Challahan has been working on a plan to improve efficiency, faculty morale and interdisciplinary studies through reorganizing the way New College’s academic divisions operate. For the plan to reach fruition, the school’s faculty would need to voice their interests, adapt the plan to meet their interests and vote it into existence.

According to Callaghan, one of the reasons the Academic Master Plan may not be the best system is because of its inefficiency. For example, Callaghan says that the Humanities division has always had almost twice as many faculty as the Natural Science division. One affect of this difference falls on the division chairs. “They get paid the same but the Humanities person is doing a lot more,” Callaghan said. “There are all of these kinds of inequities that people are aware of so it’s been talked about for a long time.”

An additional consideration is faculty morale. “The faculty run the place,” Callaghan said. “there is no administrative, ‘You will teach this.’” The faculty works together on committees, such as the Educational Policy Committee, to improve the school. “They work a lot, meet a lot, talk a lot, and come up with proposals,” Callaghan continued. “Change happens very slowly. People work hard with little results, so they wonder, ‘What’s the point?’”

According to Callaghan, low faculty morale could also be caused by the divide between the administration and the faculty. “There is a line drawn between faculty and administration,” Callaghan said. “[The administration] has become this entity that does things that people don’t understand or don’t trust in some respects. …The administration is seen as having some kind of sinister motivation sometimes. I can’t imagine what those are because you just want to do what’s best and talk to as many people as possible. …If people don’t understand what’s going on then they’re going to be distrustful. … So somehow were not doing well enough in making sure everybody knows the process and that these decisions that the administration makes are not arbitrary.”

A final possible reason for low faculty morale is compensation. According to Callaghan, “Any time you stop and think about how hard you work and how little money you make, you can be put into a funk.”

On the other hand, Callaghan says that people recognize [New College] is a great place to work. “All they have to do is to go to another institution or conference and listen to people talk about their problems. They realize they have smart, motivated students, small classes, a great environment and colleagues who I care about.”

Callaghan’s goal is to rid the system of its dysfunctions “I think that we are not all that we can be.” she said. Callaghan welcomes opposition to her plan as long is it encourages a conversation about the current system. “I think that if people just step back from the system and are open, then they’ll see that if we started over, we could probably build a better monster,” Callaghan explained.

According to Callaghan, the current divisional system is organized into silos. In a memorandum by Callaghan distributed at the Sept. 8 faculty meeting, she offers a definition of silos which says, “Organizational silos, as the term is used in business and information technology, are dysfunctional units or departments within an enterprise, characterized by their tendency to protect themselves, hold and maintain duplicated of date and services that are available centrally, communicated more within than outside, and to place their own parochial goals ahead of the larger goals of the enterprise itself.” Her idea is to step away from silos and form smaller groups.

With the smaller groups, Callaghan says that each area of study will have more focused attention on their needs, will not have to go through an extra political layer and will be better represented. She thinks that the divisions could be organized into six smaller groups. The people in each group could be decided based on which academic areas work well together or have similar methods, such as psychology and biology or language and literature.

Callaghan says that this could encourage different studies to work together. They would be working with new people in their group and would need to talk to the other groups to get what they want. For example, to get a line, or the money needed for a new professor, one group would have to make a coalition with another to have the necessary number of votes. These coalitions would encourage interdisciplinary study and broaden academics for faculty and students.

Callaghan’s plan would give each group a unit leader how would be compensated for doing more work, but would not have all of the responsibility laid on division chairs such as all of the meetings.  They would be freed from some from some of this responsibility because the faculty committees would be the ones making the policy. Each small group would have a representative on the faculty committees and then each committee would have representative on the Academic Council.  The committees, rather than the chairs, that would make the decisions. “I think that flattens the hierarchy,” Callaghan said.

“It’s different than having three chairs meeting with the Provost and making decisions,” Callaghan explained. “To me, it increases participation which would help faculty morale. Everybody would know what was going on.”

So far, the school faculty has not expressed much interest to Callaghan about talking about the reorganization. If they did begin to discuss it, then Callaghan says that a proposal could be created by the end of this year.

“We have a structure that’s going to have to change itself from within,” she said. “I haven’t gotten a lot of positive feedback, but the most I hope for is that people think it’s worth talking about. I think we ought to be constantly re-examining what we do. I’m not the first person to recognize that New College is a really conservative place. …I mean it’s resistance to changing anything. Which is understandable because our academic program is precious, but times change. We have to change too in the right ways.”

Some faculty concern have already been discussed. The Natural Science division meeting minutes from May 5 discussing the Provost’s report read, “…currently this council serves as a space committee and discusses division matters. Most faculty voices this proposal would not be a good idea; there would be no representation; it would make the chair’s job worse.”

When asked about the possible reorganization, Professor of English Miriam Wallace said, “Nobody really knows what it means, but we’re all curious. Not everyone is happy with some of the interdisciplinary work and limitations with hiring. It’s hard to figure out how work that crosses boundaries is valued.”

“I want people to want to be involved with the bigger picture,” Callaghan concluded. “How do we make the bigger picture more functional?”

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