How a "Top down" Leadership Culture Weakened Shared Governance...Applicable as well to Utah Valley University

For decades after Texas A&M’s founding in 1876, the college’s doors were open only to white males who were required to participate in military training, an initial component of the Morrill Act for public land-grant institutions. Although cadet service was made voluntary in 1963, Texas A&M is one of just six senior military colleges that remain today. Faculty members told The Chronicle that this history makes itself felt in a top-down power structure that has been an integral aspect of Texas A&M’s operations — for better or worse — but that has also played into a growing chasm between professors and administrators over the years. A recent survey, conducted by state chapters of the American Association of University Professors from mid-August to early September, gave voice to these sentiments. Describing a “culture of fear,” one self-identified Texas A&M faculty member wrote in an open-response section that the faculty “cannot speak out about our administration or disagree with our administration without retaliation.” Another wrote that faculty morale was the worst they’d ever seen, indicating that the main issue was a “top-down leadership style which does not allow for faculty input.” Tracy A. Hammond, the speaker of Texas A&M’s Faculty Senate, has heard similar complaints in private. She says it’s revealed a culture that she describes as “immersed in fear and retaliation.” “That is what really needs to be worked on,” Hammond, a professor of computer science and engineering, told The Chronicle the week before undergraduates and the faculty returned to campus. “It’s less about every single detail coming out, as opposed to making sure that everything moving forward is filled with transparency.” One of the most striking things she noted in the revelations that followed the summer’s two debacles was how, when policies and procedures weren’t followed, few appeared to raise any red flags. “If you don’t get past the part of the fear-and-retaliation culture,” she says, “you can’t fix anything.” Jaime Grunlan, a professor of mechanical engineering who has worked at A&M for nearly 20 years, says the university’s top-down approach hasn’t always been a bad thing. He points to Banks’s success as the engineering-school dean, during which she elevated its profile. But the retaliation side effect of the power structure is worse than Grunlan has ever seen. “We already had a very top-down, militaristic type of structure, probably more than most universities,” he says. “Something comes from on high and just gets shoved right down 20 levels to me, and no one is supposed to question it.” Link to the entire article, available for free if you give them your name and email address with a password:


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