USFA e-Letter: University Administrative Practices

In response to mounting frustration expressed by members, in 2013 the USFA Committee on University Administrative Practice consulted faculty about the extent to which university administrative practices supported their teaching and research.  

The committee’s report noted that an increasing number of practices impeded or encroached on faculty success as engaged teacher-scholars.

Recently, Service Design and Delivery has proposed a model of support services for faculty that could potentially improve some of these administrative procedures.

This model aims to address some of faculty’s larger concerns, such as the time sink of administrative software (e.g., UniFi, Concur), the onus on faculty to find expertise and information (e.g., “Who do I talk to about this?”), and the disconnect between policy and reality (e.g., when faculty are told “this can’t be done,” when in fact it can).

While these steps may show welcome progress, they do not address another problem flagged in the USFA report of top-down paternalism. Imposing new responsibilities for accountability without providing resources or authority makes work disproportionately harder for faculty, despite promises of improved efficiency.

Will we see an alignment of administrative services culture that truly supports and facilitates the academic mission of the university? (Post TransformUS Priority 8) It might be possible, but only if administrative services are useful, do not impede faculty success as engaged teacher-scholars, and do not turn out to be solutions in search of a problem.