Homer has noticed that surveys of faculty routinely suggest that the world of academe and poor morale go together. Ask faculty how they feel about their college, or their level of satisfaction with the work environment, and you are likely to get a flood of responses indicating a general state of discontent.
Homer is not immune from this existential angst. He is constantly catching himself wallowing in lugubrious lassitude—melancholy compounded by a sense of oppressive weariness. Going to class to discuss the relevance of Adam Smith’s ideas in contemporary society might relieve the tedium for a fleeting moment, but soon the feeling of wretchedness creeps back. And attending faculty meetings, Homer discovered, only serves to deepen the Stygian gloom.
Homer was not surprised to learn that a recent faculty survey had highlighted the prevalence of low morale. In earlier times, such a finding might have caused committees to sprout up—how else would one get at the truth?–and weighty reports to be issued. Discussions about the growing demands on faculty’s time would inevitably ensue, sometimes followed by the creation of additional committees.
As the number of committees swelled, a vicious circle would establish itself. Homer now had even more meetings to attend, which provided him further opportunities to lament the erosion of work-life balance, the lack of salary increases and the burden of assessment. This, coupled with a sense that the problem was too big for the College to handle on its own, deepened his disenchantment, with the result that Homer’s morale would plumb new depths. On most days, only a scone at the Blue Bean and the prospect of reading the Etownian offered any solace to the tortured soul.
Faculty surveys also tended to reveal yet another enduring problem: inadequate communication.
Was there an institution in the land, Homer wondered, where faculty believed that administration was doing a good job of communicating with them? In all his years of teaching, he had yet to hear of it.
But the problem of communication, once identified, could unleash responses that were even more disturbing than the creation of new committees. For all its failings, a committee had no effect on a college’s budget, but what if the administration was sufficiently exercised by the communication issue to hire consultants to tackle the problem?
This, alas, has been known to occur. With great fanfare, a college would bring in the communication experts, who would then meet with the faculty in small groups to gauge their sentiment. Alas, such meetings served to exacerbate the earlier problem of low morale, as faculty would be reminded of the myriad slights that an uncommunicative administration was inflicting on them. Eventually, a report would be issued, a newsletter would be generated and interest in the matter would recede, until it was time for the next survey.
To these vexing problems besetting faculty, Homer could now add another: the College’s website. For long, faculty have been described as a group bound only by a common grievance over parking, but now, in the Internet era, faculty have discovered yet another source of shared misery. No matter the effort that goes into developing a website, often at considerable expense and under the guidance of professionals, the faculty is convinced of its ineffectiveness. They do not like the color scheme. Navigation around the site is difficult, especially for those tender high schoolers who are often the principal target. The site does not have enough pictures of students and alumni. The site has too many pictures of students and alumni.
Homer can hardly wait for the next faculty survey. He is ready to tell whoever is listening that his morale is low, the administration is not communicating with him and the website needs to be changed.