Faculty, Data, and Decisionmaking


This is a guest post by David P. Nalbone, associate professor of social psychology at Purdue University Northwest. He is the past president and external liaison of the Purdue University Northwest AAUP chapter and was just elected secretary of the Indiana AAUP conference.

nalbone-blogMy article in the January–February issue of Academe, Using Data to Shift the Campus Conversation,” contains timely information about current events in higher education: namely, attempts to shift the narrative, often set by administration, from one of either top-down messaging or active (and disingenuous) cheerleading to one of more data-driven (and principled) focus.*

A few updates are in order, however. Since acceptance of this article, the university from which it was written, Purdue University Calumet, has been merged with another institution, Purdue North Central, to create Purdue University Northwest—all without any faculty input. The decision to merge was imposed (by either the administration or the Board of Trustees—as neither wants to “own” the decision) without any input by faculty, students, staff, or community members. The tremendous work it takes to sort through and align two different campuses, with different cultures and, in some cases, entirely different approaches to structuring a major, was put on the backs of the faculty and the staff. When our Faculty Senate asked for an explanation, it was told “It’s a done deal,” even though it clearly wasn’t; when we demanded an impact study—to examine what economic and academic ramifications such a merger would have, and even if it would be worth our time and effort—we were told that the administration is not interested in such a study, because the merger “hasn’t happened yet.”

Such events highlight the need for data to address critical higher education decisions—and this merger, which is the equivalent of jumping off a high cliff without a parachute, all while being told that everything would be fine, certainly is a prototypical (if extreme) example of administrative disdain for faculty input. Given that similar events are occurring in many other higher education institutions—with partisan attempts in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indiana, among other states, to decommission the public mission of higher education—the need for faculty to critically analyze administrative decisions is paramount. In addition, if faculty allow administrations to unilaterally set the narrative, the battle for the future of higher education may be lost, and thus assertive agenda-setting on behalf of faculty is warranted.

*Please note that the article requires AAUP member login.

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