The University Record, November 23, 1992

Faculty task force recommends model for evaluating administrators

By Mary Jo Frank

Will faculty evaluation of high level administrators help bridge what some faculty see as a widening gap between the central administration and faculty?

The Task Force on Evaluation of Administrators, established last March by the Senate Advisory Committee On University Affairs (SACUA), thinks periodic evaluations---based on cooperation rather than confrontation---might help.

Reporting the task force's recommendations to Senate Assembly Nov. 16, chair John R. Knott said just the prospect of having such faculty reviews should have, and already has had, an effect on central administration-faculty relations.

The report, which was accepted by the Assembly, stated: "We believe that reviews of the sort we recommend should be seen as part of a long-term effort to improve relations between administration and faculty and to strengthen the governance of the University, not as a means of addressing immediate problems."

The task force recommended the University adopt a system of periodic evaluation of offices headed by executive officers by special ad hoc committees of no more than five or six faculty.

Evaluations would be collaborative

Ideally such evaluations would be a collaborative effort, endorsed by the president, with the administration regarding the reviews as constructive endeavors with the potential to improve the effectiveness of the offices being reviewed.

The task force said responsible faculty with high credibility in the University community must be willing to serve on the review committees. The willingness of faculty to serve is likely to depend on their sense of whether the review will make a difference.

Faculty would only be interested in participating in such evaluations, Knott said, if the evaluations led to change and if the process were constructive. Administrator bashing would not be supported by faculty, Knott predicted.

Reviews should focus primarily on the impact the office in question has upon the academic mission of the University, with faculty assessing the assumptions that govern the conduct of the office, its effectiveness in attaining the objectives set out by the administrator in charge, and the level of satisfaction of the constituents it serves.

To be justifiable, administrative reviews must promote the health of the University in the long run. If they do not, such reviews should be abandoned, according to the task force.

The first reviews could be done as early as next academic year, Knott said, if the Assembly decides to proceed.

A Model for Reviews

The task force proposed a pilot model for reviews. The model calls for cyclical reviews, with no more than one or two scheduled in an academic year. The decision regarding which offices to be reviewed would be made by the president or provost, where appropriate, in consultation with the SACUA chair.

All executive officers and the vice provosts would be considered eligible, beginning with those offices whose activities have the most direct impact on the teaching and research missions of the University. The President's Office should not be among the first reviewed, according to the task force recommendation.

The task force's proposed model calls for the president or provost, in consultation with SACUA, to select and charge the review committee. SACUA would submit a list of potential committee members to the president or provost, consisting of at least one third more members than needed.

The review process would begin with a written statement from the administrator whose office is to be reviewed. This statement would include discussion of goals, problems faced by the office and how these have been addressed, recent accomplishments, the administrator's operating style, allocation of the administrator's time and the current state of the office. The committee would meet with the administrator to discuss the statement and the mechanics of the review and then solicit advice and information from those it perceived to be most affected by the operation of the office. The report should consider both the strengths and the weaknesses of the office's operation, according to the task force proposal.

The confidential report of the committee to the president or the provost would be meant to inform and influence policy rather than dictate a particular result. A summary, commenting on the operation of the office but not on sensitive personnel issues, would go to SACUA.

A draft of the report would be presented to the administrator in charge of the office being reviewed, who would be given an opportunity to endorse its conclusions or to register any disagreements.

Short-term Recommendations

The task force also offered the following short-term recommendations for addressing perceived problems in the relationship between the faculty and the central administration:

---Have the administration make more active use of existing advisory committees. "Mutual good will and tolerance are essential if such committees are to serve the University well. The most important factor in their success, however, is likely to be a willingness on the part of the administrator in charge to allow them to play a meaningful consultative role," according to the task force report.

---Involve deans of the schools and colleges in the formulation of central administration policies that affect the academic mission of the University at an early stage, before a direction is established.

---Organize a series of meetings between top administrators and faculty representatives to discuss how major policy decisions are being made and how these are being communicated. "The purpose of these meetings should be to increase understanding between the faculty and top administrators and to explore ways in which a consensus might be developed in support of major policy decisions," according to the task force.


Making a case for evaluation

The potential costs of instituting a system for reviewing administrators are significant, according to the faculty's Task Force on Evaluation of Administrations.

In addition to making heavy demands upon the time of some faculty members and the administrative offices being reviewed, such reviews would complicate the role of the president and risk undermining the authority of executive officers.

However, the task force said the costs probably would be offset for the following reasons:

---Reviews would provide useful analysis and information, offering among other things, a fuller picture of the satisfaction of the constituency than is likely to emerge otherwise.

---Cyclical reviews would make it easier for a president or provost and for the administrator whose office is being reviewed to address problems and identify opportunities.

---Expectations of review are likely to make administrators more responsive to the constituencies served by their offices.

---Involvement in reviews would educate the faculty about the problems faced by administrators.

---Reviews would establish the role of the faculty in monitoring administrative performance at the highest levels and assert the importance of faculty governance in the life of the University.