Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Institutional Frustration

| 9 Comments

Gosh I really need to get this off my chest.

So there was a time before I got my PhD and became faculty, before committees and taskforces.

For some odd reason, the institution asks us to do these committees and taskforces and put forth these processes. We discuss them with other faculty in different areas and decide together on something. And then no one wants to follow it. And then you’re like supposed to be the policeman of something you never even wanted to do in the first place.

I am trying to figure out if

  1. We should not interfere in the first place. I am a faculty developer offering non-judgmental support. I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t want to be worked with 
  2. Interference should come from whoever at the top wants this stuff and can get folks to do it because really, I couldn’t care less.
  3. Faculty should be more involved. I don’t know how coz you can’t involve everyone 
  4. Governance is important and we should do these processes….but something in the process of creating the processes needs to change

It’s probably #4. What I don’t understand is…when people create processes then they themselves (or people who know the processes well) work in parallel outside of the processes. Ok wait. I understand why someone would prefer to NOT follow process. What I don’t understand is why people create them then when someone doesn’t follow it, no one cares. They just shrug. Which means this:

  • People create processes that some people follow (or these processes become barriers and people don’t do stuff)
  • Some people don’t follow process and get what they want coz no one stops them

So processes are a privilege that some people don’t follow and other people respect and the processes can become barriers or headaches for them. But not the others.

And in all of this… I don’t wanna be part of this game that I don’t understand. 

If someone consistently doesn’t follow processes they know well about or even helped set up, it’s gotta be either

  • They’re above the process
  • They couldn’t care less about the process
  • They maliciously put processes for other people to stumble on but theu themselves can move faster 

So…. Why?

If there’s a workaround for everything why can’t we just be honest about subjectivity and processlessness and just live in honest chaos. 

I am guessing like 2 people in the world will understand what this post is about. Unless everyone finds this as frustrating as I do.

9 Comments

  1. Maha, Count me in as one of the 2 people who understand (or tried to) what this post is about. I am currently analyzing data from 20 universities about how they support international graduate students, and I was reading your post in that context of trying to figure out how and why people want to care, where informal support mechanisms work better than formal ones, and so on — and I often want to theorize everything as “honest chaos” (that’s my favorite phrase of the week). I guess people develop processes and rules to try to make sense of chaos but that is how things make sense to them, how things are organized and streamlined for them, how things become easier (less work, less time/money) for them; if they forget other parties, they’re setting up another dysfunctional system. Worse, if they set up a system that they want “others” to run, systems to avoid responsibility — just hoping/wanting their power to “make” them do what they need/want — that’s not only honest chaos but dishonest mess. Anyways, you just shared a lot of thought-provoking ideas.

    • Thanks Shyam. I like the distinction between honest and dishonest here…even though we can’t know for sure if someone is intending to be honest or not…

  2. Hi Maha, I don’t have anything illuminating to add but I just wanted to say that I was nodding all the way through your post. In my secondary school I notice the resistance from staff against processes forced from the top. And sometimes the top have the processes forced from even higher. I’ve wondered whether there’s a better way because I can’t believe that these processes are always useless or malicious. Maybe those who are not involved in creating the processes will not be able to accept these as valuable or essential, I don’t know. I guess if you’re part of a committee that’s trying to make something happen or make change, then you need processes, but who knows how you can get people to embrace the processes? Teachers just want to teach.

    • Yeah. Teachers just want to teach… So we need to maybe ensure that our processes don’t get in the way of that šŸ™‚ and maybe help rather than hinder. Thanks Tania

  3. … AND they set up committees and working groups – that take HOURS of staff time – to develop strategies and processes that no one will follow… thus wasting all that valuable time – that – and here’s a mad thought – could be spent with students… Whilst typically excluding the people who might have the knowledge and expertise that would actually make a difference. Every year is like Pol Pot Year Zero – where everyone forgets everything that has ever worked – and start again from nothing and no where.
    Meanwhile – all the weight of the institution is spent enforcing frustrating practices that have no proven benefit – that waste the time of ALL STAFF to absolutely no good effect… But everyone feels de-moralised, voiceless and under-valued – again.
    Where;s Foucault when you need him?

  4. Oh yes! Let’s set up a task force charged with setting up a master committee to monitor the work of all committees at the institution and to compile all the handbooks and rules into one big online resource… that no one will ever view, except other committees at other institutions studying how peers deal with committees and task forces. And so it goes, and goes, and goes. And as silly as the whole thing sounds, there is lots of complicity all around. Faculty blame administrators or staff for the silliness. But then faculty members vote to form committees to draft mandates for the setting up of task forces to explore faculty concerns and perspectives about X policy or Y practice. It’s endemic in academe. And it’s very hard for anyone to use a common-sensical “no!” on this pervasive pathology.

    Maha, I think that this makes at least *three* of us who have some empathy and understanding. Maybe you are *not* really all alone in feeling this way. šŸ™‚
    Best,
    Robert

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: