Many parts of a campus seem to exist on separate islands. Students have their own concerns: personal finances, courses and stress. Faculty and departments are worried about providing the best education possible, changes on the campus and getting the books they want. Administration has to consider everyone’s concerns on top of making difficult financial decisions that will keep the institution running. Often these different points of view seem to be opposed to one another on a basic level. That’s why transparency is key to preventing an “us vs. them” mentality.
Faculty often cites a lack of transparency in administrative actions as a grievance. Word choice and the way language is used can further the divide between the groups. What may seem clear and reasonable to one side, won’t be perceived that way by the other. Fiscal matters, especially, can often be met with mistrust. This is why it is important to understand the situation from both sides when looking for a solution.
Some of the misconceptions faculty has about administration can be solved with more explanation. Faculty primarily focuses on teaching and research, not money or management. They may not fully grasp the responsibilities of deans and administrators or why much of what they do is necessary. It’s the business side of education that is often lost in translation. Why would salaries be frozen while the dean is traveling every week or while buildings are being renovated on campus. This is where transparency can be utilized. Honestly address the faculty’s concerns. Explain that travel is necessary for fundraising and that money donated often comes with restrictions about how it can be used. The important part is that the communication between groups does not stop.
For the debates that cannot be settled with more transparency, give the faculty a voice. Seeking out their input on budget concerns that will affect them will increase their understanding of the problem and the many complications that come with finding a solution to it. Policies are not arbitrarily made. Bringing in key faculty leaders from the start will not only demonstrate that, but they can become advocates for the necessary changes among their peers. Try to be flexible and understanding about their concerns, while still staying true to what is in the best interest of the school. (Ten Tips for Better Faculty/Administrator Communication)
With time and effort, the gap between groups can be bridged to everyone’s benefit. When faculty better trusts in the administration to do what is best for the school, they will be more responsive to changes and requests because they will know and understand the importance of the decisions.