The Chronicle of Higher Education published a detailed article about the Disney Culture initiative. As the article makes clear, GW faculty who are concerned about this program are not saying that we shouldn’t improve GW’s environment: we like responsive and empowered staff, respect for everyone, a shared sense of supporting the educational and research mission of the university. We definitely want to challenge any “transactional” model of the student experience, which is one problem the “culture survey” identified. But an alternative is NOT what the Disney Institute provided. Instead, it offered anodyne and sometimes condescending models of what change might look like, such as suggesting that if we all just “reach higher,” things will be fine.
As one person in the article said: “It tells people that they need to do more without dealing with the workplace hurdles that make them struggle in the first place.”
We want to deal with those hurdles. For example, we want more staffing in places where it is needed, so people are not just working longer hours for no extra pay. We want lower class sizes and lower teaching loads for faculty, so students get the personalized attention the administration claims to be interested in providing. We want fewer part-time teachers, who cannot (and should not) be expected to provide the kind of office hours support, recommendation letters, and student engagement that are the hallmarks of a great undergraduate or graduate education. We want more tenure lines, and an end to GW’s systematic undermining of the principle of a tenured faculty. What we don’t want is money thrown at “trainings” that do not actually address the on-the-ground reality of our work lives.
Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. This is true not just for faculty, but for staff at all levels.
Working conditions are learning conditions.
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