This year marks my 40th year of being affiliated with Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Two, glaring, failures that I noticed early in my career; was the caviler attitude towards students, as if the supply of them was as the, proverbial, horn of plenty and the, profound, silence of the civil service community…when it came to university policy and decision making.
The opinions of our students and their concerns and needs should be of paramount importance to university leadership.
Now, the university has created constituency groups that are a convenient political backing or ‘go to’ for leadership schemes and agendas…when in reality the appropriate constituency group, often, does not represent the overall feeling of their constituents.
Often I have observed on Board of Trustees agendas that Board matters that are to be voted on at the up-coming Board meeting have had either no constituency input or that the relevant constituencies were not consulted.
Representative government is important and the idea of elected representatives from various groups on campus, representing the groups wishes…but, in reality many of those who serve on these elected bodies do so for a variety of reasons and many sit silent on a plethora of important issues that affect their group significantly.
I have observed a model of communication with students that works…and that is to meet with small groups throughout campus and seek their, honest input, and take copious notes. I have observed the same, listening tour, model work in the civil service community.
When students identify with SIU…they identify with fellow humans…not brick and mortar buildings.
They identify with someone who values their opinion.
Civil Service staff are career SIU employees. I am one of these folks since the days of SIUC President Warren Brandt. I have witnessed every leadership change since…and knew many of the leaders.
If there is any group that students bond with…it is the civil service staff. They work with us on our crews and in our offices. We rejoice with them when they are happy and grieve with them when they are sad. We have direct knowledge of the deepest concerns that our student colleagues have…we know what works for them at our campus….and we know what does not.
I have served on numerous university committees and two of them were chancellor search committees. Of a typically 18 – 20 member committee, I was the only representative for the civil service community of over 2,000 people and there would be one representative for the undergraduate student body, which in those days was 18,000 students and one representative for the graduate students, which was thousands of students.
During my five years as the president of the civil service council I, somewhat embarrassingly, explained to chancellor and presidents and vice presidents, who comprised their civil service staff. Many thought that they were all located in the Physical Plant and that they were all union employees….while another contended that all civil service worked for one of the vice chancellors…and when I told the vice president that there were civil service staff in his office…he simply stared at me.
It goes without saying that the methods of communication and the subsequent levels of importance that has been placed on certain groups and not on others…has not worked.
‘A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach their potential.’ John C. Maxwell
‘People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.’ John C. Maxwell
‘I really do not care how much you know…until I know how much your care…about me.’ Zig Ziglar
If you want to know the qualities that would make a great leader for a department or a a college or a university ask your students and your civil service staff.
Their answer will be unvarnished and un-plained and contain the reality that only comes from experience.