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Mar 27, 2023

Can negligence be racist?

Lately, I have been thinking about the often-blurred line between bad management and institutional racism. It's something that wasn't always obvious to me, but understanding their complex relationship is essential for creating more inclusive workplaces.

Bad management and institutional racism are not always separate entities; they can intertwine and create toxic environments for faculty and staff of color. Bad management may involve poor leadership, decision-making, and communication, while institutional racism refers to policies and practices that perpetuate racial disparities. Although bad management might not explicitly intend to discriminate, its impact can exacerbate systemic racism if institutional practices negatively affect marginalized groups.

It's crucial to consider both intent and impact when assessing organizational practices. Bureaucratic delays, disorganized and confusing procedures might unintentionally create a hostile work environment for faculty and staff of color. Different groups experience institutional barriers in unique ways, shaped by the specific challenges and obstacles they face. What may seem like a mere annoyance for me, as a white man, could very well feel like full-scale harassment for a person from a marginalized group. It is important to recognize that our own personal experiences and perspectives are not universal. By acknowledging these differences and being mindful of the unique challenges faced by individuals from various backgrounds, we can work together to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all, and avoid the mistake of confusing our own perception with the universal truth.

In the realm of social justice, negligence in organizational practices can be considered racist, sexist, ableist, or homophobic, much like how negligence can be criminal in law. A lack of awareness about accessibility needs for disabled employees may result in ableist practices that hinder their career growth. Though unintentional, this negligence contributes to an unjust work environment.

Organizations must recognize their responsibility to address discriminatory practices, regardless of their origin and intent. By examining policies, improving procedures, offering support and resources for marginalized employees, and fostering a culture of inclusion and accountability, we can create truly equitable workplaces that challenge both bad management and institutional racism.

Mar 18, 2023

Budget Cuts: Breaking the Quick Fix Paradox

When financial challenges strike universities, budget cuts become their go-to solution. When prosperity returns, they hold fast to the status quo. This is the quick fix paradox.

Universities often resort to budget cuts in difficult times, seeking immediate relief while neglecting long-term strategies to increase and diversify revenue. However, when times are good, they reinforce the status quo rather than invest in innovative projects that can make them more financially resilient. These investments take time and require setting aside funds for growth, but campus leaders often struggle to justify such frugality when budgets are in good shape. So everyone gets something. Enormous efforts are spent on lobbying state authorities for more budgets, but very little in exploring the higher education market, and opportunities to pivot and to grow. It is especially troubling, given the long-term demographic trend of declining college-age population.

The transition from funding existing programs to investing in innovation is not easy. It will face political resistance and could upset many within the university community. However, embracing this shift is crucial for long-term success. When budgets return to "normal," it's essential to remember that normalcy can breed complacency. To avoid this pitfall, universities should focus on funding units and programs that demonstrate specific plans for cutting costs or generating revenue.

This is nothing new; it is just an attempt to remember those things next time when we have some breathing room. In the sort run, the options are few: spend reserves, freeze hiring, cut expenses. Our system has been hit with budget crises many times before; not one of them produces a meaningful reorientation of the system. It is still heavily dependent on state funding, which is an unsustainable strategy.

Mar 13, 2023

This is embarrassing

In higher education, there are certain matters that are handled with more sensitivity and discretion than others. One of the main reasons for this is the strong emotion of embarrassment. When faculty members feel embarrassed, it can have a negative impact on their performance and well-being, and it can set up powerful defensive mechanisms that make matters worse.

Therefore, when it comes to giving feedback on performance problems, it is important to do so in a private, quiet, and supportive manner. This allows the faculty member to save face and maintain their dignity, while also receiving constructive criticism that can help them improve their performance. This is how evaluations are set up, on both unionized and non-unionized campuses.

Some faculty members prefer to keep their own personnel matters confidential, while not minding exposing others. This is not consistent and can create a double standard that undermines trust and respect in the workplace. If you do not want to be embarrassed, it is important to treat others with the same respect and confidentiality that you would want for yourself. This rule does not change if you one is motivated by urgent matters, related to social justice. If we give up on due process, the struggle for equity and justice is undermined rather than enhanced.

Transparency standards do not always apply in higher education, especially when it comes to personnel matters. However, this does not mean that accountability and fairness should be compromised. It simply means that sensitive matters should be handled with care and discretion, in order to avoid causing unnecessary embarrassment or harm.

By recognizing the power of embarrassment and taking steps to minimize it in the workplace, higher education institutions can create a more supportive and empowering environment for their faculty members. This, in turn, can lead to improved performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being for everyone involved.

Ultimately, the key to handling sensitive matters in higher education is to strike a balance between transparency and discretion, accountability and support. By prioritizing the well-being and dignity of faculty and staff members, while also maintaining accountability and fairness, institutions can create a workplace culture that is both productive and empowering for all.