On Teaching: Addressing Faculty and Administration Conflict

I recently read a paper written in 1966 discussing the changing roles of faculty and administrators. Stephen Epler identified two types of conflict that exist: natural and aggravated. According to Epler, natural conflict is unavoidable due to the difference in goals, perspectives and experiences between administrators and faculty. The aggravated conflict can be avoided. It is a result of inadequate communication, planning, information and practices (Epler, 1966). Conflict between the role of an administrator-specifically academic directors and program coordinators- and faculty has been a topic of discussion lately with my colleagues.


Photo courtesy of Albright College

In 2011, Dan Berrett wrote a review of the book, “The Fall of Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters,” by Benjamin Ginsberg and David Bernstein. In this review, Berrett identifies a key area of concern; a shift away from attention and resources being invested in educators (Berrett, 2011). Instead, the emphasis is being placed on administrators whom “do little to advance the central missions of the universities (2011).” While some of Ginsberg and Bernstein’s writing is debatable, I do agree that many colleges have shifted the focus away from their faculty.

In my opinion, the faculty are the “product” of a university. Ultimately, the faculty are the ones delivering the course competencies to the students and figuring out creative ways to encourage students to learn material. In creative fields such as fashion programs, faculty pass on text book knowledge, industry skills and insider “tricks” on how to accomplish a skill or task better and more efficiently. My faculty are amazingly talented when it comes to accomplishing this task. Their concepts, experiences and efforts are irreplaceable.

WNF 313 Classroom 06

Photo courtesy of Ferris State University

According to Jennifer Washburn, “the time to act is now. If the university looks and behaves more and more like a for-profit commercial entity- and its commitment to producing and transmitting reliable public knowledge grows increasingly suspect in the public’s eye- then the societal justification for academic freedom will simply fall away, as will the public’s willingness to finance universities (2011).” With tenure under scrutiny, full time positions being eliminated, compensation being lowered, an increased role of human resources and a myriad of other negative changes to college-level instructor’s positions, many people see universities falling into this corporate structure. If so, is there anything an academic director or program coordinator can do to provide some stability to their faculty and show them how much they are valued?

Unfortunately there are many items outside of an academic director’s responsibility. Reductions in work force and restrictions on hiring are mostly out of their control. What does remain in their control is support, public appreciation, and professional opportunities. Some of the actions I have taken to show my faculty how valued they are include;

  • Make a public announcement to all other faculty and staff regarding a faculty member’s achievement. For example, when a faculty is awarded an internal recognition for achievement, such as a service award, the announcement is sent to the rest of the campus celebrating their accomplishments.
  • Develop and encourage professional opportunities for faculty member’s to receive national recognition. For example, one of my faculty members interviewed with a national television show to discuss upcoming fashion trends which gave her great exposure and recognition.
  • Offer event tickets to faculty. For example, many companies offer free tickets to attend their industry events like fashion shows. Offering these tickets to faculty is another way to show appreciation for their hard work.
  • Have open and clear communication channels. Many conflicts arise, as Epler identified, in poor communication between faculty and administrators. Speaking honestly to them about events happening on campus, both good and bad, will illustrate a more supportive environment.
  • Include faculty in important department decision-making. When developing events and activities, including the faculty in the process allows them to feel more connected to the college. They have a responsibility to the success of the program, not just their classes and select students.

11-059 Pratt - 2011 Fall Coverage

Photo courtesy of Pratt Institute

While I do agree with Epler that there are unavoidable conflicts between the two positions, I do not agree with Ginsberg and Bernstein that administration is not important. I believe academic directors and program coordinators are significant but they must recognize the value of faculty. Faculty are the life of the college and undervaluing them will result in the deterioration of both the program and university. Many factors are outside of the academic director or program coordinators role; however, there are still actions that can be taken to show how important they are and to minimize this conflict.



Berrett, D. (2011). The Fall of the Faculty. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from; https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/07/14/new_book_argues_bloated_administration_is_what_ails_higher_education.

Ginsberg, B. & Bernstein, D. (2011) The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrator University and Why It Matters.

Epler, S. (1966). Faculty-Administrator Relationships- Why the Conflict? University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved from; http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED014951.pdf.

Washburn, J. (2011). Academic Freedom and the Corporate University. Academe. Retrieved from; http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=da2e4bcf-e6e5-4f80-8b33-dfd8384a2f65%40sessionmgr112&vid=0&hid=111&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=EJ914895&db=eric.


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