June 18, 2017
Many industries and organizations are in tumult these days, but higher education is especially sluggish in responding to continuing disruption, according to Chris McGoff, co-founder of the Clearing, a management-consulting company that sometimes works with colleges. "The environmental dynamics pounding on these universities are off the scale," he says, but many colleges find it difficult to convince faculty members that financial and other pressures make change necessary. "There are these huge brick walls and these marble statues, and there are so many things around them saying, 'I'm safe, nothing can get to me in here,'" he says.
The pressures — and the pressure to respond — have only worsened the relationship between leaders and faculty members. "Everybody is angrier and more frustrated than they were 20 years ago," says David D. Perlmutter, dean of the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University (and a regular contributor to The Chronicle).Presidents armed with board mandates and plans to reshape their institutions sometimes hit a wall of internal resistance. "A lot of administrators feel like some faculty have become the Party of No," he says: "They just oppose on principle." But watching grand visions collapse in recent years has made harried professors more skeptical about leaders' motives. They wonder: "Is this actually a solution that you're applying to a real problem, or are you following some sort of checklist for your administration career?" Mr. Perlmutter says.