Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Evaluating Professors...Again!!

I thought I had finally buried this topic. But no. The University of Westminster has managed another surprise. I have previously described the university's efforts in trying to evaluate what professors do. Unfortunately, what was to have taken a couple of months on their part has dragged on for over 6 months due to ineptitude.

My colleagues were getting frustrated with no end in sight. I met with the head of personnel to attempt to straighten things out: to find out where in the process we were and when we could expect it to end. We had a good conversation which I thought cleared the air. I suggested that he put up a web page that could apprise us of updates. We also agreed a cut off point for the submission of the job descriptions that professors were preparing. The main problem was that individuals' head of department had to sign off these documents without really knowing what their professors did. So quite a few were held up by these heads and no amount of jogging them seemed to produce the goods. The cut off point would effectively end the dithering by heads.

The website went up, but when the cut off point sailed by, Friday 13, 2006, no changes to it occurred. When I asked for it to be updated, personnel asked me for my own job description and for it to be signed by my head. What?? I had sent mine in back on time in August 2005, and it was looked over by my head. And then a couple more professors contacted me saying they'd been asked the same thing. Oh dear, I've mentioned Kafka before in this context but his spirit is alive and thriving. Otherwise I feel as though I'm walking a hall of distorting mirrors.

What's being done is essentially a simple process, but the way it's been handled is creating frustration, mistrust and feelings of desperation. It's the failure of trust which is of the greatest significance. Within professional cultures trust plays a vital role, especially where interdependence is necessary to accomplish various goals. It is easily lost and can be very difficult to rebuild. The university has its work cut out.
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