Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Faculty Support in the Commercial University Environment

Is that a pedantic sounding subject line or what? Well, I'm trying to be tactful as well as serious and thoughtful. Let me start now where my heart is:

Back in the days of my childhood, I remember being puzzled by a saying I heard. Now I understand it and here want to apply this saying to the problem of faculty support in today's universities. "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother." While this
saying applies to the more traditional family where the mother is home with the children while
the father goes off to work, it speaks volumes about human relationships and the importance
of support for those entrusted with the cultivation of happy, good humans. I think of another
saying of more recent origin that applies here too. When my daughter first found her
cat, she spoiled him obsessively. In fact she still does. We've always said, however, that
the cat will never have to go out to work. Of course a spoiled cat can be a pain in the ..., particularly if he has lapses in his toileting habits. But he won't have to make a living or
maintain a household. The point is that humans and cats are different in their requirements for survival and flourishing. Those of us involved in the care and education of humans know that people will have to manage on their own, unlke pet cats (companion animals) who depend upon responsible people to care for them-- people who won't spend the cat food money on a big screen TV. Where am I going here? What does all this have to do with faculty? The commercialized university in a business-oriented society?
Like mothers home with children day after day, faculty members must have a support network, if not love and appreciation, to do a good job as teachers and researchers. Like children, students won't be able to grow up intellectually and to master their intended fields of learning and practice if they are treated like a cat, like a pet. Structure and challenge rather than indulgance is needed. It's so much easier to let cats, children, or students set the rules and never restrain or criticize them. It takes energy to maintain standards. A bunch of children, even one, can wear down the at-home parent(s)--mothers, fathers, grandparents, or others. The grownup needs support and affirmation to hold the line with the children. Faculty need structures and support to do the work of educational transformation. Faculty wear down just like parents. So what has happened in higher education where the customer service mentality reigns and faculty are told to "please" students? What are the results when parents see their roles as to "please" their children? Think about that. I'll post more of my ideas soon.