Occupying the same physical space, the faculty and staff of university English language programs (ELPs) may inhabit very different worlds, giving them divergent perspectives on the activity they are all involved in. This situation can lead to antagonism, mutual suspicion, and a fissure between faculty and staff who should be working toward the common goal of educating students.
Let’s look at some of the differences between the worlds of faculty and staff.
|1||Primarily internally focused (on classes and students)||Internally and externally focused (on accreditors, the wider institution, Department of Homeland Security)|
|Example: When administrators translate external reporting requirements (such as student achievement data) into demands on faculty for changes in teaching or assessment practices, faculty can feel their work – their art and craft – is being interfered with. Faculty may resist making changes or providing requested information, leading to frustration among administrators..|
|2||Defined duties with possibility to earn more salary for extra duties performed||Fixed salary based on workday; flexible duties and no possibility to earn more for added duties|
|Example: Staff can get frustrated by faculty asking for more compensation or a reduced teaching load when they are asked to do something new, such as serve on an ad hoc committee. Staff may feel that faculty should behave like them and take on whatever duties are asked.|
|3||Emphasis on individual students and classes||Emphasis on the program as a whole or on specific non-curricular areas|
|Example: Faculty may be critical of the class assignment process if they do not get their individual preferences met. Administrators have to take the needs of the whole program into account and cannot satisfy all individual preferences.|
|4||Ownership of individual work||Self-identify with the organization as a whole or with their department|
|Example: Faculty may object to administrative efforts to ‘standardize’ – make school-wide – syllabi, assessment tools, or teaching materials.|
|5||Requirement to keep to class schedule, with some freedom to work at school or at home||Requirement to be in the office with some freedom to organize time and work|
|Example: Administrators may become frustrated at faculty who are ‘never here’ or the inability to schedule meetings because of faculty members’ varying schedules.|
|6||Breaks between semesters with requirement to be present during semesters||Fixed number of vacation days with flexibility to take vacation|
|Example: Administrators may be envious of faculty members’ long breaks; faculty may find it difficult to schedule vacations, attendance at weddings, or medical treatments because of the requirement to find a substitute or make up classes.|
|7||In decision-making, an emphasis on process||In decision-making, an emphasis on results|
|Example: Administrators can get frustrated with the length of time faculty take to make decisions through committee meetings and faculty meetings; faculty may be dissatisfied if they feel decisions were ‘rushed through’ by administrators without sufficient consultation or discussion with faculty.|
With so much potential for conflict, it is vital that the faculty-administration relationship be proactively attended to and managed. This means formalizing opportunities for sharing perspectives, consulting each other on proposed changes, and engaging in dialogue. It means establishing meetings – committee-style and whole-organization, formal and informal – where faculty and staff can exchange ideas on an equal basis, and where concerns can be openly expressed in a civil way without fear of criticism or retribution. And it means not personalizing disagreements, but working through them as colleagues, with a willingness to see the other side and make compromises to reach solutions.
None of this is easy, but it is vital for the effective functioning of your program and the maintenance of a motivating and fulfilling work environment for all.