Our Communication Problem is a Compartmentalization, Community, & Collegiality Problem
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
FSU is obsessed with the communication habits of its northern neighbor at Fort Bragg. A favorite phrase of chairs, deans, and upper-level administrators is “chain of command,” a military turn of phrase that means, in practice, that the Provost will communicate directly with deans, deans with chairs and assistant chairs, and those folks with faculty. And the reverse. This is a bureaucratic mode of communication that does not reflect best practices or good leadership.
Our communication is compartmentalized when we use the chain-of-command mode. This preferences administrators, who can isolate departmental objections, for instance, through a single chain. The approach preferences bullies in authority, who can play the trump card of chain-of-command to minimize the response to a complainant instead of addressing the problem directly. The approach also disadvantages the interdisciplinary engagement between departments. The communication mode is inefficient in terms of time and energy -- an email from the Provost doesn’t need to be forwarded to the dean, who forwards to the chairs, who forwards to the faculty. It needs to get to the faculty. And the reverse may also be true.
Communication at FSU, particularly in Academic Affairs, does not serve its primary purpose, which is to create a sense of community, commonality, and shared experience. Instead, it is almost always perfunctory, pressuring, or pontificating. Leadership in communication means inspiring and empowering and leveraging good humor to orient the organization to a common purpose in everything we do. Almost no FSU communication to faculty looks like this, and it ought to.
Chain of command, compartmentalization, and lack of community in our communication is a collegiality problem. Much of the problem rests in the word “command.” Historically, and most appropriately, chairs, deans, and provosts have been considered colleagues -- perhaps the first among equals -- and not managers in the hierarchical sense (this sense borrowed from the military and business worlds). It is critically important to the collegial spirit of FSU and to the morale of the faculty that our administrators work and communicate as our colleagues first and supervisors later.
Blog posts are written by individual FSU-AAUP members and do not necessarily reflect the entire membership.