Dear Ohio State Mansfield Colleagues,
To begin, I would like to provide a brief update on my trip to San Antonio, Texas last week for the National Council on Family Relations conference. As I noted in my last biweekly report, I gave a talk on a soon-to-be-published paper entitled “The art of being a failure as an academic field: A cautionary tale for family science.” This is a critical period of time for my academic discipline, as recent mergers on campuses across the country have been reshaping the schools, departments, and colleges in which family-based undergraduate and graduate programs have been located. This has resulted in a set of challenges to family scholars, not the least of which is the ability to retain a coherent sense of professional identity in the midst of the psychologists, sociologists, educators, and social workers with whom my colleagues now find themselves interacting. Among other things, I wanted to create a call to action at this conference in terms of becoming more intentional about guiding and supporting the next generation of leaders in the family field so that they are better equipped to deal with the emerging issues surrounding academic unit reorganizations (which have been widely predicted to accelerate in the coming years).
My presentation and paper borrowed liberally from a classic paper written in 1969 by family therapy pioneer Jay Haley entitled “The art of being a failure as a therapist.” Haley ends his article by proffering a motto he labels “The Five B’s which Guarantee Dynamic Failure,” and suggests that this be placed on the wall of every institution that provides training to therapists. The Five B’s are:
- Be Passive
- Be Inactive
- Be Reflective
- Be Silent
I argued that, if we were to adopt a similar motto for the family science field, then we might similarly hang the Five B’s on the walls where department and college faculty meetings are hosted. Passivity, inactivity, reflection without subsequent action, and silence indeed seem to be the exact prescription for our field to get ready to watch what will happen when members of my field are not an active part of the reorganization-oriented conversations currently being conducted on college and university campuses across the country. As you might surmise, my hope is that my academic colleagues instead will choose a more dynamic and proactive path.
On a related note, I also hold great hope that Mansfield faculty and staff similarly will adopt an action-oriented approach regarding the future of our campus. I am releasing this biweekly report mid-way through our Art of Hosting (AoH) event currently being held in Eisenhower Hall. One of the first tasks that our campus is attempting to accomplish through the AoH process is to create some guidance and direction for our faculty and staff hiring decisions over the next 3-4 years. This is a very complex task that requires the balancing (and potential rebalancing) of so many priorities and factors. For instance, how do we balance the desire to replace faculty who have retired or left positions in majors or subject areas that we historically have offered with the need to offer new majors? And what is the proper ratio of faculty to staff hires in this time period? And so on.
Luckily, the AoH process allows for a relatively deep dive into these sorts of questions, as well as offering a number of procedures that support continued progress toward the emergence of some directions to proceed. We also are fortunate to have had a rather sizable – and relatively equal – number of faculty and staff members attend today’s event. And it does seem that everyone there is committed to playing an active role in the conversational process. At the same time, however, I am at least somewhat concerned about the not insignificant numbers of faculty and staff who were not in attendance today. As one of the AoH facilitators stated at the beginning of today’s discussion, we must be mindful of the voices both present and absent. Hence, we will necessarily redouble our efforts to ensure that we continue to invite more and more campus community members into this process as much as we can, as well as doing everything possible to make our conversational spaces a safe and productive place to discuss these issues.
Undoubtedly, you will be hearing more from the AoH facilitators about the results of today’s dialogue. If you were there today, thank you for choosing to participate! If you were not present, I encourage you to watch for additional ways to become an active and informed campus community member. Thanks to Larry Stimpert for his early contribution in this afternoon’s conversation, which provided me with this biweekly report’s last words: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One)!