(Pix ©Larry Catá Backer 2017)
I have been speaking to issues of shadow work and the changing nature of expectations of faculty (e.g., here). I have suggested that ways that this affects faculty productivity by shifting focus form teaching, research and service to compliance and compliance related activities. This shifting can have a net zero effect only when faculty are implicitly asked to dig further into their private lives time to satisfy the increasing cravings of administrative bureaucracies within government and their mirror images within the university. At its limit, the growing movement toward compliance cultures without reducing teaching, service and research expectations creates both a burden and en effective and substantial reduction in the compensation of university personnel per hour of work extracted. That is hardly fair, though it may be legal. And ironically it may as well violate the ethics codes universities have been at pains to impose on faculties these last several years.
The movement toward compliance cultures is not malicious. It is a product a deep cultural changes that have created strong incentives to privatize public policy respecting cultural changes. And it expresses a strong change in social and political consensus respecting the role of the state (and institutions to which state policy objectives have been delegated) in using regulation, reporting and compliance as the means for managing and changing behaviors among the U.S. population. As a consequence, social behaviors are now constrained by a web of federal and state law, administrative regulations and university policy, and much of what constitutes compliance reflects discretionary administrative choices respecting the implementation of these webs of regulatory mandates.
This has strong implications for shared governance as well as the participation in the development and control of faculty productivity. The administrative regulations that tend to emerge from, through or in conjunction with the compliance offices of universities tend to ooze out in ad hoc fashion and they tend to be justified in vague references to the need to comply with "applicable law or university policy". By that standard and in that process, there is no possibility of accountability and the scope of administrative discretion to justify anything by reference to their "right" to "interpret" value and unspecified standards has no constraint. That is bad management for shared governance, but is is worse management for a university provost that has no ability to well manage her administrative units in an intelligent way.
The first step toward coherent and constraint in compliance is information. This post includes an open letter that may be sent to an appropriate compliance officer with the purpose of gathering the sort of basic information necessary to begin a discussion about compliance in an intelligent way--both with respect to discretionary choices made and with respect to the consequences of compliance as faculty shadow work. The open letter follows. Feel free to send to your own compliance office and report back on results.