Redefining department assessment through technology
- A group of current and former professors at the University of Illinois and a former Utah State executive recently debuted the Academic Unit Diagnostic Tool (AUDiT), a system to assess the performance of academic departments and provide potential recommendations to help optimize departmental productivity.
- The federally funded project measures levels of department collegiality, research productivity, finances and other areas of departmental operation and culture, and ultimately produces a score which defines how fixes can be made to specific trouble areas.
- The developers its ultimate objective is to inspire responsibility among executives for fixing bad culture in departments and schools. “It requires avoiding rationalization and denial about what is actually going on. It requires both administrators and faculty to acknowledge these issues and take responsibility for them,” they wrote.
How do administrators take responsibility for fixing bad culture? Public notice is one way to encourage departmental reform. Much in the way that campuses create dashboards to show student satisfaction with food services, auxiliary operations, athletics and other areas, publicizing departmental performance gives students and faculty members improvement benchmarks which are hard to avoid and which expedite change.
Presidents and administrators can also consider incentives for departments that score highest in performance areas. By emphasizing collegiality, accessibility for students and collaboration, it is an easy ask of trustees, state legislators or nonprofit organizations to fund initiatives which reward efficiency and growth in the academic enterprise. The alternative for improving collegiality among faculty could be a public, nasty feud between colleagues which can spread in media and create obstacles for recruiting new faculty or positive press.