At my university a decade long enrollment decline has reached a crisis point, and for twenty months (and counting) Illinois has operated without a state budget. The university is now focusing on increasing both enrollment and non-state funding, but this effort has done little to quell faculty unrest from some administrative decisions—namely layoffs.
During this tumultuous time, I have been Faculty Senate Chair. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me is that the vast majority of faculty do not know what’s happening on campus—I call them free-riders. Free-riding faculty take little responsibility for anything beyond their classes and research. They don’t understand that student recruitment and retention is part of the job—that, in fact, our survival depends upon it.
With little faculty input, the day to day running of the university is left to administrators (often career non-academic administrators). Faculty, however, should be proactive rather than reactive to administrative decisions with which they disagree. Naturally, it is difficult to impress this upon colleagues in boom times when growth is good, and we rarely think of lean times (lay-offs, downsizing, and budget cuts).
Exacerbating the problem is a faculty tendency to forget the ideal of shared governance. Faculty must help govern the university else we become subject to administrators who may not understand the value of philosophy as a major or as part of general education curriculum.
Don’t be a free-rider:
- Understand your university’s curriculum and philosophy’s place in it.
- Actively participate in faculty governance.
- Know the external forces that impact the health of your college or university.
- Promote a positive image of faculty in your community.
- Do your share of service work.