EDITORIAL: Next president should focus on faculty
Administrators and faculty remain confrontational
In an ideal world, and especially in an ideal workplace, interpersonal animosity is extinguished quickly and amicably.
Seldom does one person or group of people hold all the fault when conflict does ensue. If the disputed situation was black and white, with clear moral or practical rights and wrongs, there would be no conflict.
This is true at Rutgers as well. It is no secret that faculty and staff have had a sporadically tense relationship with University President Robert L. Barchi and the rest of the administrators. When a wealthy, powerful group of people come into conflict with a group with lower influence, the easy option is to drag authority and side with the scrappy underdogs.
This was seen this past spring, when students were caught in the middle of a contract dispute between the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) and the University. Many students supported the union in its dispute with the administrators.
A less severe microcosm of that dispute is rearing itself. Course Atlas, an online scheduling system, is set to be instituted at Rutgers over the coming months. The new system will streamline and optimize the scheduling process, according to administration. Certain alleged benefits include more scheduling flexibility, as well as more individually oriented digital maneuvering, which would contour students’ schedules with personal living conditions, such as geographic location and credit requirements.
“The Course Atlas initiative modernizes our approach to course scheduling by considering detailed course information, program curricula, classroom inventory, faculty/instructor availability and projected student enrollment to build a schedule that best fits the needs of our students, faculty, departments and programs," said Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy, according to The Daily Targum.
The union paints a much dimmer picture of Course Atlas’ likely impact. Administrators are lying or withholding information about the results of their simulations, according to the AAUP-AFT. The union also alleges that the system would isolate more classes to Fridays.
The Targum reported that the union stated via email: “As already shown in the simulations, Infosilem will shift hundreds of classes to Fridays, upending students' jobs and lives. The same data show Infosilem will hardly put a dent in student travel between campuses (an issue better addressed through more busses with dedicated lanes). In other words, the benefits remain unproven while the costs — to the personal and professional lives of students and faculty — are real and significant.”
But unions and higher officials are expected to run into trouble at times. They both have legitimate reasoning backing their claims during these disputes, and it would be wholly unreasonable to view either of these sides as wholly unreasonable.
The onus of responsibility, though, is on the administrators, and more specifically, Barchi. There is a stark difference between acknowledging that he is not totally at fault, and absolving him of total responsibility.
Being the president of a major, Big Ten Conference university is a very prestigious perch. It comes with respect, pseudo-fame, power and status. Those alluring aspects of the job come with the cost of responsibility and being a figurehead.
Part of that responsibility includes fostering a positive co-habitual relationship with all members of faculty and staff, from tenured professors to the cafeteria janitors. The fact that professors and faculty are part of a large, powerful union such as the AAUP-AFT further emphasizes the importance of maintaining a symbiotic relationship.
Barchi comes across as a measured, analytical person, which is to be expected from someone whose background involves medicine. This is also shown through the influx of building projects that popped up throughout his tenure.
For instance, six new residence halls have opened since 2012, as well as countless other projects, particularly on the College Avenue and Livingston campuses. Additionally, new material tools have been added to classrooms.
“New academic buildings are sprouting all over Rutgers, among them the Rutgers Academic Building at Rutgers—New Brunswick. They feature digital classrooms, loaded with the latest in technology to facilitate learning," according to Rutgers Magazine.
All this points toward a very material-minded man at the helm of Rutgers, and as displayed above, there are certainly strong, tangible benefits that come with that. But Rutgers should look to hire a president with slightly more focus on the faculty-administrator relationship.
It is important to vary the philosophies of those at the helm of the University, if for nothing more than to prevent tunnel vision, and to shield certain aspects of the college experience from years of neglect.
"(Barchi) is not at all involved with the search process, and has no input or feedback on it. This was Barchi's choice, as in his past experience, predecessors being involved with finding their successor has not worked out well," according to the Targum.
Students are included on the search committee, so it is important to emphasize to those who are — as well as everyone involved in the search — that our next president should turn more of their focus toward faculty.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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