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SUNY Oneonta Institutional Planning

Posts: 26
Darren Chase 2022-03-21T17:56:41-04:00

3/10 Dialogue Session Notes, Governance


  • Last couple of years, we've lost people in our department and they haven't been replaced; heard a couple of reasons why, but the people there are working way more than they should be because they care about the programs and the people and want to keep it working. It's becoming more and more evident; it feels like we're more towards that being the norm as opposed to getting positions filled quickly.
    • AC: I think that is a really important one; it's a pervasive issue across the campus and country, a structural issue that may be hard to address in short term but we can still work on trying to address it
  • Something mentioned yesterday "If we had a map we'd know what to do along the way"  -- we've often taken an attitude of "just start something and see where it goes" we spend a lot of time piloting things and people are spinning their wheels, but things change. So there's a lot of time spend in work and committees, etc, and nothing happened. No feedback, rational, etc; and it ended up feeling like how people spent their time was not important. If we knew where we were heading, we maybe wouldn't get sidetracked as much.
    • AC: To follow up, have to have a sense that it's okay to try something and fail.
    • Well in some cases someone had and idea, or a group, and so they were told "Sure go out and try" but no resources were provided to make it work, so after a while the group got tired and it didn't progress, and so it fel like we wasted our time…
  • Would agree and confirm -- we repeatedly try to recreate the wheel; there are events we do each year, but it gets tweaked, different offices do it, it becomes inconsistent; parents and students get frustrated.  The lack of consistency frustrates everyone who works here, the students… need a clear directive in what we're doing.
    • And clear outcomes -- we don't always assess.
    • AC: Reality is that many initiatives --- it takes time to move the needle. It can be easy to feel like we've invested X amount of time and it becomes unrealistic to expect fruition in 12-24 months.
  • What I'd really like to see -- we're talking about retention -- I'd like to see employees connecting with each other more; there were so many silos even before COVID. When COVID happened, there was a major cultural shift and we were able to connect in different ways. Before we would really only do that at an end-of-semester get-together. We need to be able to make those connections so that when crises happen we are able to use those connections. IF we can welcome people into that environment, we'll be better able to recruit and retain employees, as well. If I know I have people who have my back from all across campus, it helps me feel better about the work I'm doing and if  a student in need comes to me I can better help them. And students see that -- if they see folks collaborating, being human together, they'll feel more connected to the campus and it will help with retention.
  • From my observation, people want to do a good job. We've all been through a lot, but some of the burnout relates to vacant positions. When depts don't have admin support or they share admin support, it's very difficult on the depts, because the work still needs to get done. If you know how to do some things (like ARGOS reports, e.g.) it may be very easy, but if you don't, it becomes very hard to get things done.
  • On mutual appreciation of workloads - from my lived experience one way I gauged that was through committee involvement on campus. In some cases, I self-nominated for committees, and there's a risk, but those are places I've made some of the biggest connections.
  • Really appreciated the teach-ins. Walked away from those I could attend with better understanding of those divisions.
  • For bullets 2,3 would replace "rebuild" with "re-enhance scholarly community" -- we're not going to know each other, but if we have semi-structured times to come together, we are better able to understand each other. The institution is providing opportunities to come together; its up to the employee to decide whether or not they come. If they don't it's up to them. This gives opportunity and ownership.
  • One area we really do undervalue are the contributions of classified employees who are not allowed to leave their desks to do a lot of these things, as well as trainings, etc. These are the people who have the day-to-day contact with students when they have problems.
  • As leaders we should provide those opportunities to those who work for us. When I started here, I was given the time to go to different departments and learn about them; this enabled me to better work with and understand the school. Allowing our staff to take some time to learn about and from other members of the campus.
    • AC: Discussing "Toxicity of Ivory Tower" and the burden placed on POC
  • Notice who is missing from here: custodial staff and others not from professional offices. They aren't hear because they're nervous, they don't feel comfortable in this environment.  I used to be a cleaner, and I've interacted with all kinds of people and I've had some terrible interactions because of that.
  • There have been some faculty but not a lot; haven't seen many junior faculty at all. Don't know what that means, but…  Also, an example in 2014 or so I was an internship coordinator, … had a task force for needs assessments, we worked very hard on that. When I saw things cropping up again, I shared with dean the technical paper my group came up with. We as a group attended a SUNY workshop and were excited about; formed applied learning networking group; it was grass-roots. As it started to grow, and worked it its way up the chain, and all of a sudden we attended one of our network meetings and someone said "I'm going to take minutes" and everything started shifted. Something grassroots turned into top-down. All of a sudden we were no longer that group. A formal applied learning group was created and some of us were not even invited to be in it. Somewhere along the line, many faculty (not speaking for everyone) I don't think they feel connected to the happenings of college, when decisions are made they feel like things are done to them. Doesn't matter if its perceived or real. Having a relational approach can help. People always remember how they feel when you interact with them; when you get task-oriented… there's a time for top-down; there's a time for mixing it up. Some of this stuff is slow. "Jigsaw effect" no one person or subgroup has the whole answer; we need each other. I think we're in silos and some people don't even know they're in one.
    • Maya Angelo: "people may not remember what you wrote/did; they'll remember how you made them feel"
    • Discussing leadership with someone and they said "Well, I'm not a leader" -- but we are all leaders at least situational. Even the fact that you work at a college means you are a kind of leader in society.
    • It helps to get past a nasty email, etc, if you know you're part of something bigger.
  • Part of the issue is that we have to know who to contact when we want to get help or learn about a part of the school; how can we make sure our new employees know how to do that and where to find out?
  • When I was promoted to asst director, and then director, I could have used some kind of mentor to help me be a better manager, leader, colleague
  • The chase is always "what's the next thing upstream" you can't solve <this> without first solving <that>, can't solve <that> without solving … etc … See the signs of trauma in so many colleagues. And we've lost our informal connections and some of our traditions. Like the opening breakfast. People would come out of the woodwork; it was these beautiful moments of gathering. What helped me survive a year and a half on campus by myself was being able to take coffees with other people, and I used to feel guilty about that but it got me through. We need to think about when it's appropriate to use the hierarchy and when it's not appropriate. I often get emails outside of hours because I'm the person who has that piece of the puzzle. We need to be human together.
  • I think this college has been moving far towards quantitative data for making decisions and what we're about, and away from qualitative data. And so when we talk about our lived experiences, we're met by a flurry of statistics generated by others that tell us our lived experiences are wrong. We've created all these systems, and many time they did the opposite of helping. Always crunching numbers can kill morale. What possible data driven metric show that seemingly unrelated jigsaw pieces come together to form a greater whole? We need data as an institution, but we need to be much better at gathering quantitative data to complement that data. In the current model of student opinion forms, there is almost no quantitative response because students seem less likely to o provide written responses, and so it becomes all about numbers.
    • AC: Gave a metaphor of quantitative data connecting dots and qualitative data is the coloring. Need qualitative data to help see the picture when it's hard to move then needle. I would hope faculty would be allowed to collect their own data (qualitative) and be able to use that for RTP. It's not the numbers themselves but the story, and we can use the story to make decisions.
  • Important question to ask is: is every constituency represented? When making decisions. How does this impact everyone who works here, not just the people at the table.
  • How do we get these conversations going with the folks who aren't here? I want to see other than the usual suspects. Need to change the culture and bring other people in and have them feel they are being heard.
    • Very open to ideas on how to do that.
    • One question is: what percentage do we need to get involved to know that we can move forward? "Start with 33%, get another 33% to join, and d last 33% will likely not join."
  • Discussion of event on social media where "shout-outs" were given by students to faculty who influenced them. Spotlighting the people who do amazing things.
  • Would like to see scholarly work being done on campus to be better promoted in a similar fashion. Would like to learn what others are doing on campus so we can do more interdisciplinary work. That will help us build this community.
  • Enjoy the scholarship and research shows, but it would be wonderful to have something like a personal passion show… there are so many cool things that our community members participate in.
  • As a shout-out, we have something called the Alden Scholars series. Doing our second talk in-person and through Teams.
  • AC: It will take some time to build up to these things. Appreciate the grass-roots approach.


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