The University Record, June 19, 1995


Organizational Constraints and the Collegial Process

Editor's Note: In April 1995, Jacqueline L. Zeff submitted her letter of resignation as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences(CAS) at the University of Michigan, Flint Campus. What follows is the text of her letter and her final remarks to the faculty of the College.

From Dr. Zeff's Letter of Resignation:

In recent months, organizational constraints have seriously eroded the collegial process and are preventing the College of Arts and Sciences from fulfilling its responsibilities at a level of excellence and humaneness I and my colleagues have come to expect. I can no longer participate in this climate of decision-making and therefore resign my position as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences effective July 1, 1995, when I will assume full-time faculty status at U-M-Flint as Professor of English, with tenure.

Remarks to College of Arts and Sciences Faculty

I'd like to use my last official "report" to share with you some of the issues that led to my decision to resign as your Dean. But first I want to thank the more than fifty people who called, stopped by, e-mailed and wrote notes to express their support for my leadership and concern for my welfare. One colleague wasn't sure whether I had "lost my senses, or perhaps found them!" In fact, I believe that as an academic community we may indeed be in danger of losing one sense--the sense of what it means to be a University. But first, let me make clear what are NOT my reasons for this decision. I did NOT resign because I have fallen out of love with my job; or because the "work" was completed; or because I lost an argument, or my energy for battle. In a 1987 commencement address, A. Bartlett Giamatti (then President of Yale and soon-to-be Commissioner of Baseball) reminded us that:

"A college or University is an institution where financial incentives to excellence are absent, where the product line is not a unit or an object but rather a value-laden and life-long process; where the goal of the enterprise is not growth or market share but intellectual excellence; not profit or proprietary rights but the free good of knowledge; not efficiency of operation but equity of treatment; not increased productivity in economic terms but increased intensity of thinking about who we are and how we live and about the world around us. In such an institution, leadership is much more a rhetorical than a fiscal or "strategic" act. While never denigrating the day-to-day, never scorning the legitimate and difficult chores of management, never pretending that efficiency is useless or productivity irrelevant, leadership in such an institution must define institutional shape, that is, define its standards and purposes--define the coherent, sustainable, daring, shared effort of learning that will increase a given community's freedom, intellectual excellence, human dignity.

Such assertions of leadership--by speech, by deed, through decisions large and small--are the essential acts of institutional definition."

A Free and Ordered Space: The Real World of the University, W.W. Norton, 1988, p. 36-37.

In recent months, I have experienced and witnessed administration actions that run counter to our shared effort of learning, and that are, in my judgment, anti-intellectual, anti-collegial and anti-person. Our beautiful new library has become a site for clandestine meetings between staff who are fearful that their interactions might be reported to other staff. Employees who willingly and regularly extend their workdays, without any expectation of compensation, now are ordered to remain at their desks. Barriers of power and economic advantage have been intensified by the introduction of identification badges for staff while keeping other employees of the University exempt. And statements made in public colloquia are secretly tape recorded and used to discredit colleagues.

But it is the recent budget reallocation "exercise" that has surfaced for me the real threats to our institutional definition. Last week, I and several colleagues from the "Understanding Hate" Committee attended a conference in Chicago whose purpose was "to bring together people in the academy who care about what kind of 'citizens'--that is, 'participants in the community'--our students will become as a result of what we teach them." What do our decision-making behaviors teach our students? One of the conference speakers, Dr. David Matthews, President of the Kettering Foundation, helped me see that higher education offers the public not just what it knows, but "ways of knowing," processes of thought that have never been as sorely needed by our community as they are in the 1990s. Two such processes that pertain to our current budget situation are the use of the imagination to anticipate consequences and the ability to consider means and ends at the same time. The budget reduction "scenarios" mandated by the Chancellor and implemented by the Provost defy those processes. Only a failure of imagination would order CAS to explain, for example, that every cut in our adjunct faculty salary line of $100,000 would result in a loss of $444,150 in revenue to the University and the cancellation of 46 classes. Only a failure in imagination can account for the cautionary note that as we cut faculty, and therefore classes, we should "remember our intent to balance the budget while maximizing quality, access and success." (Memo to Academic Deans and Directors, March 9, 1995)

Nor does the proposed strategy for addressing the anticipated "shortfall" demonstrate the ability to consider means and ends at the same time. To prepare each scenario, we have been asked to identify "FTE, rank, grade, etc." The debasement of language in these terms obscures the faces of full-time untenured faculty, long-time adjunct faculty and the deletion of new hires vital to sustaining, let alone expanding, programs to meet student needs. In meetings and through written communications, the faculty have asked for explanations and information that would substantiate the need for such drastic and unreflective actions. We are still waiting for answers. Dr. Richard Weber, Economic Consultant to CAS, concluded in his 1994 analysis of the financial statements of U-M-Flint: "The analysis shows University of Michigan-Flint in good financial health." We have been told there is no time for thoughtful program review. There is no time to coordinate allocations with the vision that might emerge from the academic planning effort currently under way. There is no time or opportunity to consider alternative responses, such as reducing or eliminating ancillary functions that neither educate students nor generate revenue. Nor is anyone invited to think through the negative effects on BOTH the person forced to inscribe the name on the list as well as on the person targeted for layoff. Important non-base funded initiatives to promote diversity in the curriculum and the faculty, to enhance general education and to internationalize the campus are ignored. On the other hand, we have been encouraged to consider increasing class sizes, re-evaluating sabbatical policies, eliminating support for faculty with administrative or program development responsibilities. Fundamental academic principles of civil debate, analysis, reflection and revision have been waived by an administratively created sense of urgency. On March 22, 1995, the CAS faculty unanimously passed a motion requesting information from the Provost and Chancellor and called for an immediate freeze on administrative hiring. To date, three national searches for administrative positions are continuing.

As a first principle of academic life, faculty govern. Not because they are inherently better at governance but because the institution's primary purpose is teaching and learning which faculty ARE inherently better at!

Ultimately, the across-the-board budget reallocations which we are facing are not about money, but about reconstructing the University; they are about treating education as a cost center without considering it as a revenue center. But most of all, the reallocations ignore the responsibility that we as educators must abide by as well as the physician, "first, do no harm." A colleague once pointed out to me that in the University, the curriculum may be the soul, but the budget is the conscience. Recent events and the climate of decision making I have described have made me follow my conscience.

Jacqueline L. Zeff
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

The University of Michigan-Flint

Thursday, April 6, 1995