“We don’t want to offend alumni who identify with an immobile mascot, so we thought we might introduce one that moves, but only a little bit, and very slowly,” says the Assistant to the Full Director of Alumni Satisfaction. “If Sleepy goes over, in 10 or 15 years we’ll try something more active.” – From “essay on being appointed to a college task force” by Brent Chesley, seen on InsideHigherEd.com.
I’m not sure how to feel about this essay. Although it’s certainly funny, and it make some great points about what can go wrong with mission statements and strategic visioning and planning for a university’s future, it has a little too much animosity for my tastes.
The essay focuses on the only faculty member attending a task force meeting run by all administrators. In the essay, the faculty member brings up some ways of improving the university while sticking to the mission statement. However, the administrators come away looking as though they are stuck in the past, unwilling to move forward and unaware of what the university is all about.
I know that things don’t always go smoothly between faculty and administration at universities, IUP included. But when a university needs to make an important, both of these groups need to be in on it and need to give their input.
In other words, more people need to do what we’re trying to do through SVP: get as much input from as many groups on campus (and off) as possible, because everyone needs to be a part of this.
In the essay, the main character suggests that the university change some policies in order to stick to the mission statement. That’s not our task. Instead, our job this summer is to take a look at how the university is actually run, what students and faculty love about IUP and what makes this a special place. Then, we’ll be using all of the information that we get in order to create this strategic visioning project. Instead of changing our university to fit a plan, we are updating our plan to take into consideration IUP’s current climate.
By doing this kind of research before IUP comes up with a mission statement or a focused plan for the future, we’re avoiding the kind of problems that the people in this short essay have.
Once we have this kind of data about what people actually think of IUP, our university can make decisions based on what truly attracts students and what makes us distinctive.
Something I didn’t mention: not only are we getting valuable data, people start to feel good about being heard. No one likes to think that they’re part of an organization that doesn’t listen and take their thoughts into consideration. The more people we talk to, the more good will we can spread and the more people were can represent.
If you have a moment, read this short essay here. Let me know what you think about the situation the author describes and what we should learn from it. Am I way off on how I interpreted this? Did I miss something?