A while back we wrote that we have seen a number of patterns and similarities as we have conversed with deans and unit leaders about how the TransformUS task force recommendations roll up at the college or unit level. Among the kinds of actions suggested by the task force reports, the ones that seem to be widespread or material at the university level fall under a few headings. One of these we wrote about previously is the idea of simplification and amalgamation of structures.
Another grouping of possible projects and actions is those related to tightening the university’s focus on its core mission.
Every organization has a core mission. For universities, this mission is about learning and discovery at an advanced level: about teaching, about students, about research and scholarly and artistic work and their impacts in communities. Our mission distinguishes us from other organizations that are not universities – say, from school boards, hospitals and businesses. The way we pursue our mission – our values, vision and priorities – distinguishes us from other universities.
So it is very logical that when resources are short, we consider concentrating them on the things that are most core or most distinctive to what we as an organization contribute to society. The TransformUS support services task force advanced this perspective in various ways in their report. They noted that the primacy of the teaching and research missions means we should streamline administrative operations and ensure administrative units and services are focused on the needs of students and of faculty. They also suggested that various activities – for example, outreach functions – be reviewed with respect to their centrality to what the university does.
The thought process with respect to mission focus is not black-and-white, not that things are all in or all out. Rather, it is like concentric circles with university learning and discovery at the core. Some other functions are essential: we need buildings, we need learning supports for students, and so on. In an era of limited resources, we need to reassess carefully what may be peripheral, and we need to make sure that everything in which the university invests is efficiently organized and clearly focused on the academic mission.
Brett and Greg