Faculty Role and Academic Leadership in the 21st Century Music Department

May 1, 2011

Academic Freedom and Institutional Vitality

In its first year of existence, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), led by a special committee appointed by its President, John Dewey, issued the landmark 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure. This declaration had a lasting impact on defining the role of faculty in today’s academic workplace. First, the ‘nature of the academic calling’ allows faculty ‘a distinctive form of freedom’ of thought, inquiry, and teaching within institutional context and standards (which is different than an absolute freedom of speech outside the academic context). Second, a faculty member’s academic freedom is ‘inextricably linked’ to that of institutional vitality and success. (AAUP language cited in Gerber, 2010.) In addition, institutional vitality depends on faculty vitality predicated on faculty participation in shared governance (Lee, 1995).

Academic Citizenship: Cooperation, Collaboration, and Communication

Often, new faculty, who come with a novel accomplishment acquired through the rigor of a doctoral program and full of excitement and energy, find the academic establishment an enigma lined with a maze of potential hazards. At the 2009 Minneapolis Conference of The College Music Society, the Academic Citizenship Committee addressed communication problems in departmental meetings and among colleagues
under the banner of “Cooperation, Collaboration, and Community Engagement.” The session particularly focused on ways of listening. Group discussion between session participants was prompted by the following: “Are there models in place from which we can learn? How do we ensure that we understand what others are saying? How can we keep the issue and the person separate? How do we follow-up on what has been
suggested or discussed?” (Patterson, 2008). Different models of communication and leadership will be discussed later in this article. First, it would be useful to reflect on the organizational systems theory.

In higher education, individuals with disparate disciplinary proficiency tend to function in autonomous communities. Musicians, each equipped with highly developed individual talent, disparate academic training, and unique artistic commitment, work in an organization that strives for common goals. Social context among these skilled academics with different temperament and disciplinary paradigms is complex and delicate, to put it mildly. Katz and Kahn (1978) find the traditional assumption in social psychology that individuals exist in a social vacuum problematic; indeed, musicians quickly realize that this assumption does not work among colleagues in our departments. This assumption is even more awkward when the societal environment demands a major shift in the ways we do things, the status-quo. In a rapidly changing world, open systems allow a constant flow of human energy, motivation, adaptability and mobility. Communication and collaboration are essential in such an open system. Individuals in an open system hear what others are saying. Agreements and disagreements are not the most important components in this system; hearing differences of opinions, considering diverse positions, and solving problems with multiple approaches strengthen the system and vitalize individuals operating within it. This kind of productivity certainly requires individuals with diverse perspectives rather than the comfort of like minds. How can this open system work in music departments? Effective academic leadership is essential in establishing a civil, vital, and productive atmosphere of shared governance.

Nine Indicators of Effective Academic Leaders (Lee, 1995)

1. Foster free and open communication
2. Show interest in individuals’ work
3. Help solve problems
4. Encourage, enable, and challenge faculty
5. Advocate for and protect faculty
6. Articulate a clear vision
7. Maintain high-level energy
8. Create cooperative and supportive environment
9. Empower faculty leaders in a positive way

Leaders are architects and catalysts (Bolman and Deal, 1991) who can set the tone of the department culture, creating a productive and pleasant work environment. Consider the relative effectiveness of the following three leadership styles:

The powerful, articulate leader who solves all problems himself. This style is hierarchical and faculty comments are not heard.

The leader who lets the loud voices dominate the meeting. Meetings are chaotic and confused. No real listening or consensus-building occurs.

The soft-spoken leader who listens to every voice with no judgment, and allows all into the discussion. Using the TQM (Total Quality Management) principles (Imai, 1986), this model hears all voices as legitimate inputs and works through them (throughput). Meeting outcome becomes a rational whole, yielding a gestalt effect, i.e., ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts.’

The first leadership style above is a disjunctive, one-way decision making scenario. The second is also a disjunctive meeting mirroring a monotonous Rondo Allegro format. In the third style above, faculty take ownership and the leader functions as a facilitator and architect. This model allows for a Sonata Allegro form to bloom with very definite themes, colorful development, and a concrete conclusion where all diverse elements are imbedded. The final outcome is all-inclusive and multi-factorial.

Effective leadership allows and encourages all faculty to lead, in turn. Poor leaders sap out faculty energy and motivation, divide the team, and expedite entropy. Sadly, in such situations, talented musicians often leave the academy and music profession altogether. In order to address the increasing complex needs of our students and the society of which they are a part, faculty can no longer isolate themselves in their studios, offices, and classrooms, focusing on their own individual work, and expect ‘others’ to handle governance. The concept of ‘shared governance’ now, more than ever, perhaps, is central to faculty life and institutional effectiveness. The education of future professors ought to address faculty roles in governance, and pre-tenure faculty must be encouraged to participate in shared governance, with civility as a foundational value.

The AAUP’s original purpose for faculty tenure was to underscore the importance of stewardship and ownership. Faculty should be the central force in creating institutional policy and curricula, delivering knowledge and artistry, and governing the institution. Faculty should not passively expect professional administrators to govern what they do with the highest level of expertise. Tenure is NOT merely job security; rather, it ensures academic freedom and grants faculty ownership of the institution. Tenure comes with the responsibility to be the best possible steward of an institution’s resources, and to help it accomplish its goals. Administration has its roles, of course, but it cannot preempt faculty in this formidable joint task. Leaders must create an open system in which all inputs and throughputs work together toward grand outputs. Departments need diverse voices in order to thrive in these challenging times, and hearing, trusting, and respecting all voices is foundational to civil and effective academic citizenship.

References (Recommended Readings)

AAUP (2006). "On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom" (1994) in AAUP, Policy Documents & Reports, 10th ed. (Washington, 2006), 143.

AAUP (2006). "1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure," in AAUP, Policy Documents & Reports, 10th ed. (Washington, 2006), 292.

Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T.E. (1991). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco, Oxford: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Gerber, Larry G. ( 2010). Professionalization as the Basis for Academic Freedom and Faculty Governance. AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom. Volume One.

Imai, M. (1986). Kaizan: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success. New York: McGraw Hills Publishing Company.

Katz, Daniel and Robert L. Kahn (1978). The Social Psychology of Organizations. 2nd Edition. New York. Chichester. Brisbane. Toronto. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons.

Lee, Sang-Hie (1995). Departmental Conditions and Music Faculty Vitality. Ph.D. University of Michigan. Advisor: Marvin W. Peterson. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest. Publication Number 9527679.

Patterson, Anne (2008). Chair of Academic Citizenship Committee, The College Music Society.

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