Published: 26th October, 2018
Ruth Luthi-Carter is a professor in the University of Leicester’s Department of Neuroscience, Psychology & Behaviour. Now the dust has settled a little on the University Leadership Team’s withdrawal of the remaining ‘business cases’ for compulsory redundancies it presented last summer, she reflects on the prospective value of an alternative approach to managing change.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Leicester UCU. The author is grateful for Leicester UCU’s support of staff during this period and also for the University Leadership Team’s recognition of the merits of alternative ways of working.
Change is inevitable. How we respond to change defines us. We are strongest and best-served to live within our principles and share the burden of striving for the outcomes we wish to achieve. Below are some ideas regarding the benefits of working together, in our University or in others; these proposals are open for discussion.
1. We, together with our students, are the University
The enterprise of a University is not in the shape of its buildings, but the quality of its people and the learning, growth and research that occurs there. The University’s community is its central asset, its heart, mind, soul and conscience. The academic mission of the University relies on high standards and sound values; these must be upheld faithfully, without negligence or prejudice. An affront to any part of the University reverberates across the institution to destabilise it. Conversely, a vibrant and thriving university community is secure, successful and attractive.
2. We complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses
Each of us has a valuable set of talents and a unique colouring; we provide the University with its substance, its detail and its character. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we each need to find where we belong and be given the space and the right to exist there. We may need to be encouraged to take the right position and do well in it over the longer term. The whole is inviting, strong and resilient. If the picture changes, some pieces may need to relocate, or even move aside. Treat us with care; we may be useful here or elsewhere in the future. Bending or breaking us wastes energy and creates a mess – a mess that might need sweeping up or become apparent to others – a casualty to the University’s reputation, of its own making. Losses in key areas may be difficult or impossible to replace.
3. It’s good for all of us as individuals
Treating others as one would want to be treated is a central tenet of multiple faiths and cultures. It brings out the best in both parties. It creates harmony. It powers the momentum of positive change. It feels good. Supporting staff through both their successes and their challenges builds goodwill and reciprocity. Even where opportunities change and aspirations differ, collaboration is the best way forward. It builds bridges. It preserves careers and livelihoods. It maintains mutual dignity and respect. Everyone wins.