“Campus as a living lab”… for sound governance and common sense

Review committees for Deans and VPs should not comprise direct aides and immediate subordinates of the person under review. Besides fueling –often unwarranted yet prevalent– skepticism vis-a-vis the evaluation process, current practices have the potential to undermine it by shutting down debate, discouraging input, and preventing potential criticism regardless of how constructive it is.

Reviewing the performance of a Dean or a VP is also about evaluating their “offices”, and more precisely their selections of aides, associates, staff and anyone directly involved in running their operations. And what if one weak link in the record of an administrator under review happens to be the performance of the very subordinate appointed to the evaluation committee? Then what?

Aides and subordinates should of course be free to provide testimonials at their bosses’ review, but they should not be put in a situation of conflict. University governance should not allow for this type of situation.

And this is not the only instance where some care is required. An even trickier situation is when a Dean pro-tem is a declared candidate to be a full-fledged Dean. Can the committee then comprise the executive assistant of the candidate, or one of his/her Associate Deans? I am not so sure about this one.

In any case, we keep hearing about the concept of “campus as a living lab”. It may be time for this interesting concept to transcend its “civil engineering” focus and to acknowledge that campus is also a living lab for humans dabbling with other real issues, such as collective governance and ethical practices.

The newly announced “School of Complex Governance” sounds perfectly named for such a task, but it may be more efficient to get the graduate students at the UBC “Institute for Applied Ethics” to help us tighten the loose screws on some of these practices.

And Leadership Kudos go to Dave Farrar for making sure that the next due diligence process will be running with none of these unnecessary distractions.

As to you rank-and-file fellow faculty out there, O spirited descendants of Plato and Socrates, can you please step up and engage in such important processes? Why should senior management go to great lengths trying to involve you in a process that most of you don’t seem to care about?

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1 Response to “Campus as a living lab”… for sound governance and common sense

  1. Phil Hultin says:

    Well said!

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