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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Creeping Managerialism versus Cohesive Social Life

— In their work on problems of governance in the Oxford University colleges, Ted Tapper and David Palfreyman identify “creeping managerialism” as one of the most serious impediments to collegiate welfare. Although skilled management is certainly needed at the upper levels of any large organization, “management” by itself is not capable of building the kind of strong and cohesive human communities that universities should be providing to their students.

What does build strong, cohesive communities? The military sociologist William Darryl Henderson tells us in his recent book Cohesion: The Human Element in Combat (University Press of the Pacific, 2002):

Leadership that is most effective in building cohesive units has several characteristics. Of primary importance is that it is not managerial in approach. Instead, it emphasizes personal, empathetic, and continuing face-to-face contact with all soldiers in the unit. Because the leader’s ability to develop fully professional relationships is limited to a small number of soldiers, units must necessarily be small if leaders are to have maximum impact.

Although an educational setting is certainly different from a military one, the collegiate model—like the regimental model of military organization—has as one of its foundations the notion that people can accomplish greater things when they have a cohesive community at their back. Many spheres of human activity share this view, and people who seek to develop strong collegiate communities can benefit from studying the idea wherever it appears. Henderson’s book contains many valuable insights that can be applied in a collegiate setting.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016