Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The sky is falling

Am in my Corporate office. Outside is a guy with a long pole. At the end is a thin saw. He is up on a very thin tree, sawing away, pruning out the rotten branches. Yes, we need trees maintenance as well. The problem is they don't seem to have any specialist knowledge about how to prune. They saw the branches from the top and then when it gets near the bottom, the weight of the branch pulls it down, leaving ugly scars. The angle of the cut is not right. The distance from the main trunk is also not right. Its all brute force.

This morning I got a call from a colleague who was really upset that workers sawed off the huge branches (and I mean huge, like the size of an adult body)  of the Pokok Getah at the Red House. Earlier, one central branch had toppled because wasps had built a nest in the trunk, weakening it. And when it rained, the whole branch toppled, hitting a car, I heard. Fine, chop off the rot. But where do you stop? A substantial portion of the huge branches have been retained. But how much is too much? Where are the experts who should be overseeing this?

Elsewhere, the sky should also be falling. Elections are being held throughout the campus to select the Deans. Well, not elections really. The school can send up to three names each for the positions of Dean and 2 Deputies to the VC who will make the final decision. Will he choose the one with the highest votes? He doesn't have to, otherwise there is no sense submitting three names. Can he choose from outside this "pool"? Why not? Like doing a search for the best person in the world (or region) to fill the post.

From my vantage point as an observer and voter, there are various kinks which needs to be worked out in the future. Some one raised the issue of why only people who have previously been at least the Chair of a Programme are eligible? "Its not democratic", he said. OK, we get it, the Dean should have administrative experience. But the Dean should be annoited because of his leadership and vision not administrative capability. Administrative duties should be taken care of by the professional administrators. Deans should set directions and policies in consultation with the staff and students. Implementation should be carried out by professional administrators or managers.

I think the current process is too focussed on the voting. We should have a process where candidates should declare their interest (they don't have to be nominated by someone else). And then give at least 2 weeks for the candidates engage with his colleagues and students (repeat, students) to talk about his vision and how he intend to propel the School forward. What is his game plan? To get more post-graduate students so that the supervisors can get the incentives and have high scores in the KPI (apparently, getting the incentives from supervising a research student is the fastest way to improve the Schools' KPI). But what about improving the quality of teaching inside and outside the classroom? How about contributing to the community? How will he lead the School to support the University's APEX mission? What are his plans for turning the School GREEN? What is his interpretation of the APEX U vision?

In our school, we chose the third option for voting. That is, write down one name each for the position of  Dean and the two Deputies. In a sense it is highly empowering and democratic. But it also splits the votes. In some posts, there 12 names written.

I guess the sky hasn't fallen yet.

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