March 16, 2011

Fostering Communication

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Administrators from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences acted appropriately in holding an open forum for faculty and students to discuss potential changes to CALS in light of the projected 10-percent reductions in state funding for the 2012 fiscal year.

CALS –– as well as the other statutory colleges –– are facing difficult times. In addition to the University’s internal budget cuts, the state’s reduction in funding will likely force top administrators in the college to make challenging decisions.

It is critical, however, that CALS leadership continues to keep faculty, students and administrators informed as those decisions are being made and solicit feedback before they are finalized. Throughout the coming months, CALS and the other statutory colleges should hold several additional forums and meetings to ensure that the voices of all of those affected are heard and to foster dialogue on the issues.

Not only can feedback offer new perspectives and solutions to problems, but it allows administrators, faculty and students to feel committed to the outcomes. Meeting behind closed doors and then presenting a non-negotiable decision has the potential to produce backlash, resentment and anger that can last at the University for years to come.

We hope the University will learn from experience that unilateral decisions are only met with community disengagement and resentment, and that, moving forward, open communication is pivotal to overcoming difficult institutional challenges.