Sunday, December 10, 2006

On free speech by employees - SIU vs. the real world

From a comment in the last entry -
On free speech: Academics have more leeway then people in industry. I hope someday all employees are free to publicly criticize their employer's actions. Be great for the environment!
In the real world, if the management of a company is screwed up really badly, the first thing that happens is all the good people quit. Then all the bad people screw it up more and the company starts to do layoffs and eventually goes out of business. Because the good people aren't worried about their tenure or pension (they don't have either), they tell management exactly what they think. If you are screwing up, you hear about it in real time in my business. Just walk down the hall and people tell you what you need to do better. What do they care if you fire them, there is another job just down the street and a pay raise to boot. Managing in this situation is like herding cats, you have a feed to the truth as the employees see it.

I will give you that nothing is Southern Illinois works like this because it is so economically depressed. If you lose your job here, there is nothing else. That is why almost all the good people move somewhere else as soon as they can.

At SIU, all the good people leave or just stop caring very quickly. The BOT and administration have been killing the golden goose for years, but with the silent support of the professors. No one tells the truth, no one chews out their management. Sure a brave few say true things about upper management, but professors can't have a real effect there. The problem is the chairmen are allowed to kill your organizations by being terrible managers and/or doing nothing and no one says anything.

The reason SIU professors think they can get away with this is they think that SIU and the state of Illinois will pay them forever, even if performance of SIUC becomes even worse. My question for you is what happens if this isn't true? What happens if SIUC's enrollment drops 25% and the students you lose are the good ones? There is a fairly good chance this is going to happen in the next 10 years. What happens if the state turns off SIUC's water completely? What happens if SIUE goes its own way?

I guess you might fool yourself into thinking that SIU's system of management allows for real truthful discussion, but that would imply that SIUC's system of management is better then capitalism and that is clearly false.

As always, your comments are welcome. Even the self serving ones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe some small companies have the kind of freedom Peter describes. Having worked in the real world I can assure him it is not the norm. Free speech is also not the norm in many government agencies. University faculty do enjoy more freedom of expression than people in almost any walk of life. Perhaps the homeless also have a great deal of freedom of expression. Which underscores that freedom of expression is not a silver bullet that can solve SIUC's problems. But, the problem is not that faculty do not speek up.