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Relationships are the ‘heart’ of universities

I have lectured in this regional campus since it opened more than 20 years ago. I commenced as a sessional staff member and watched the campus grow and evolve. My concern of late is the poor attention paid to relationship … More...

I have lectured in this regional campus since it opened more than 20 years ago. I commenced as a sessional staff member and watched the campus grow and evolve. My concern of late is the poor attention paid to relationship building. For example, there are no whole of staff gatherings and few attempts by senior management to consult with staff. It seems to me that people with experience, innovation and ideas are actively discouraged from having thoughts. I am not saying that my voice should be privileged but it should be heard. Fortunately, I have found the Centre for Learning and Development and the library at the main campus incredibly responsive and caring and they have really good staff.

I see new academics coming on board and needing lots of support. They are not getting it at this campus, so I see my role as helping them. Staff turnover is low so I can confidently invest my time in building relationships. I am a social worker and see relationships as being at the heart of functioning organisations. For this reason, I see no value in taking on-line training courses. The value is in meeting people face to face and having conversations with them about their experiences. I also love the learning aspects of my role. I teach; provide pastoral support to students; undertake research and do community service, all of which I find rewarding.

I like the flexibility higher education offers and my colleagues know when I am arriving or leaving and when I put in extra hours on weekends. I always turn up to classes, receive good feedback from students and I complete the marking on time. However, there seems to be greater vigilance being exerted on academics and management here wants us to be on campus more often. The change is linked to the way performance management is now being approached, which I think is nonsense. It is not used as it should be and seems an odd way to manage staff.

Many new initiatives emanate from the main campus but I have learnt not to go out of my way to pursue them. Other people get caught up in them, but my experience is that they will probably die a natural death in a year or so. If the initiative is good and it stays around then I will pay it more attention. I cope by working part time, not taking my role too seriously, doing the work to the best of my ability and by being collegial. In a rural campus there is greater commitment to egalitarianism and collaboration and less of an ‘artificial split’ between general and academic staff. This is because when your children are playing in the same tee ball team there is no difference.

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