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Moving Forward

A colleague recently told me about a job he applied for. I thought it was strange, because I know he loves teaching here, but things have changed lately at my college. It’s not a bad place to work, by any means. And by some standards, it’s kind of a great place to work. But there’s confusion and, where there’s confusion, there’s tension.

At Richard Bland College, we’ve gone through some significant administrative changes, including a new president and a number of new vice presidents, directors, and others. We’ve developed new committees, a new strategic plan, new branding initiatives, a new Honors Program (for which I’m the adviser), and some other “new”-nesses. All of this is an effort to establish a shared-governance system with the goal of student success at the forefront.

Student success should be the No. 1 priority, so this is a good thing. Shared governance and transparency are also good things. A problem, though, is that with all the new committees and programs and ideas, there’s a lot of confusion about processes. With confusion comes tension. With tension comes anxiety. Anxiety leads to anger, resentment, fear, and more confusion, creating a cycle.

A buzz phrase around here has been “moving forward” or “going forward.” Such as, “Moving forward, we need to create schedules that align with the varying needs of all our students.” We should keep moving forward, but my colleague—the one who applied for a new job—said something the other day that really struck me: We can’t forget to look back sometimes. When we look back, we remember what it was like before the idea of shared governance, when faculty members were told what to do with the unsaid threat of “or else.” When we look back, we can see that, in just a few months, mistakes have been made; people have been put in the wrong places or hired at the wrong times or fired for questionable reasons. When we look back, we can heal so that we can move forward more efficiently.

My colleague and friend applied for a new job because, in the process of “moving forward,” we haven’t quite looked back enough yet.

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