Sunday, October 2, 2011

Core Values, community, and the launching pad.

"Our society is one of specialists and professionals.  We have delegated to others what we used to do ourselves.  MD's have replaced midwives.  The professional army has replaced the draft.  (my note: adjuncts have replaced the faculty).  While these changes toward professionalism have brought technical improvements, they have done so at the cost to community, and in fact, may actually increase the longing for voluntary association...(H)elping the collection of faculty, staff, and students at your university become a community is a significant source of influence for a university president" 

"The kind of academic success the ratchet promoted and the market rewarded was turning an institution's most highly regarded and marketable faculty into independent contractors who were coming to conceive of their institutions principally as platforms for personal achievement - good places to work and thrive, but ultimately, with the right opportunity, good places from which to move on"

Core Values

I recently attended an institutional planning retreat to discuss our institution's faith heritage, the history and future of our relationship with our heritage, and our understanding of who we are and where we are going from the perspective of the integration of our faith heritage and teaching/learning.  The retreat was highly insightful and beneficial as an exercise.  I don't know the full extent to which the information gleaned will be put to good use, but I will leave that in the hands of those tasked with synthesizing the information.

During the discussion, we were separated into small groups to discuss the Core Values of our institution.  While other groups noted lofty statements (both central and peripheral) of something to do with radical hospitality, the university being Christ-centered, focus on teaching, etc., my group zeroed in on the fact that from a Core Values perspective, our university (and I suspect yours as well) have no Core Values.  Let me explain...

Core Values should suggest immovable pillars of belief that support the entirety of a person or organization's operation.  Core Values should never waver without deliberate and intentional thought and action.  At our institution, the Core Values look something like an abacus, with the horizontal wires representing the role or stakeholder and the beads representing the importance of the stakeholder's responsibility.  Depending on how important you are, your level of participation in the institution's core values will move and shift on a sliding scale.  

For instance:

 -- Students are not required to believe anything.  They simply agree to a set of prescribed behaviors.  We will take anyone's money, given they agree to act a certain way.

 -- Faculty are required to believe in the dominant faith heritage of the institution and all are required to attend worship services at the dominant faith's church.

 -- Staff are required to have some sort of Jesus-y belief-ish understanding.  They must be Christian-esque.  

 -- Adjuncts are governed by academic credentialing.

These are not Core Values.  These are Relative or Situational Values.

I believe we are digging into the institutional values and what a set of uncompromising Core Values would look like but I believe that will be a wily cat to stuff back into the bag.  And with no Core Values, faculty and staff are left to find their own degree of institutional buy in depending on the level of engagement and commitment they have to their field, their students, and the university.  Thus, the creation of the Lone Ranger.