Being the dean #4 – transparency and communication

 

The dean believes that transparency and communication are key in our daily interaction. Therefore, the dean does not want to tolerate power relations and violent communication. Academia just as any other branch of society is often still hampered by the lack of non-violent communication. Hierarchy should be about taking decisions and responsibility, not about dominating others.

 

One could assume that administration processes would sooner or later reach some sort of equilibrium, where all processes and information flows were optimal to make the system best. Unfortunately, this assumption is in my experience wrong. Instead, it seems we miss most of the important information most of the time. This is what administration should be all about: getting information where it is needed the most. Administration should mostly be about matching supply and demand of information. In my experience, much frustration in larger organizations originates in people not knowing the relevant piece of information, often through some flaws in the system.

It could be worse, for instances when information is actively hidden. Some people might think they can manage a system best by not providing the relevant information to the people who might benefit from it. This is often a question of hierarchy and power. I believe that transparency works best in these cases. Hiding information can be seen as a form of violence. Having power over information can make you in fact superior, and consequently makes others inferior. Hierarchies are part of the way that many systems and organizations work. Yet should these entitle us to monopolize information? I think we might conclude that as long as legal issues are not violated, we might opt for transparency. This argument might not convince all powerful people, but e truth will come out eventually, in my experience. Will the truth make us free? Hm. Sometimes. But it can also burden us. Some people are indeed very much burdened by the truth. Should we then decide to hide the truth from these burdened individuals? I think not. We should not make others less free, is what I hypothesize to be true. However I did not start by talking about the truth. I started talking about information. Information could be neutral. Truth is not. Truth may instead be normative, many might argue.

 

Imagine the Case #1: The all-powerful professor.

A professor knows the solution to a problem. The solution is knowledge of a certain information. The professor does not want to reveal this information. Hence the problem cannot be solved. Obviously this act is wrong.

 

Imagine Case #2: The cluttered assistant.

The information to solve a problem exists, but was misplaced. Should we judge the cluttered assistant that misplaced it as less strong compared to the powerful professor. Probably not. The harm was not inflicted intentionally. Yet it represents a problem as we still cannot approximate a solution.

 

Imagine Case 3: The transparent secretary.

A secretary knows all solutions, and can tell you all solutions, even when you only ask for a specific one. This influx of information makes you miss the important solution. The problem remains unsolved. Is this better or worse than case 1 or case 2?

 

After all, no one solved the case.

 

All cases are realistic. However, the person inflicting power over others (=the professor) would be ranked by many as the least moral character. The problem with power relations and communication is that we often confuse these three cases. We think someone has power over us, but the person is simply cluttered. Or we avoid a person that has the solution, because we cannot understand what the person says. In other words, I think that much of these problems are a reflection of us. The way we approach people might directly reflect back on us. Hence if we approach and judge these situations will make a true difference. As long as we are open and positive, and show our respect for a person’s work, and make sure that we highlight that we are willing to jointly approximate a solution, we may solve these challenges better, I think.

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