When it is better to be seen but not heard: the ecology of public administration.
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The case is at Northeastern State University
The focus of the case is discussing when the university should be heard and when it should remain silent. The case is at the Northeastern State University in the morning. The president’s Policy group is meeting to come up with policies of identifying the social issues the university should raise its voice.
The primary problem in this case is that the university has remained silent on a social issue when it is expected to be heard.
The cause of the problem is that the university does not have a policy or criteria of deciding on which issues it should be heard and when it should remain silent on.
- Jeanine Traxel- the director of the office of public relations at Northeastern State University
- Roger Donaldson- Assistant to the University president
- George Andrews- Provost of the university
- President Zachary- President of the university
- Charlene O’Cuff- Vice president for research
- Jack Trades- Vice president for student affairs
- Rip Oakley- Athletics director
- Sherry Knowes- University’s legal counsel
- Jane Reading- Vice president of libraries and information systems
- Pat Standing- University lobbyist
- Henry Davis- Vice president of university’s medical center
One important characteristic of the actors is that they are all inquisitive throughout the meeting.
There is a raging debate on living wages and the responsibility of employers. As an influential institution involved in conducting research, Northeastern State University is expected to be heard on this important social issue. However, the university has remained silent over the matter because it does not have a clear policy on issues it is supposed to be heard and the ones it is supposed to remain silent. The president’s Policy Group holds a meeting to discuss the issues that the university should be heard on and the ones it is supposed to remain silent. There are many questions during the meeting with most of the members suggesting that the university should only take position in matters that are directly related to it.
Summary of the Case
Jeanine Traxel, who is the director of the Office of Public relations at Northeastern State University, receives an email from the assistant to the university president, Roger Donaldson that catches her attention. The heading of the email is ‘seen but not heard.’ The email has materials for the PPG which is a group of administrators that assist the university president on broad policy issues facing the university. The president’s policy group meeting opens by Roger Donaldson who gives a summary of the points in his memo. He points out that the memo is inspired by the living wage debate but he wants the debate not to revolve around this issue. Instead, he wants the group to discuss the criteria the university should use to give voice to the issue. The living wage issue is a debate that has elicited different views regarding the obligations of employers.
As Roger Donaldson summarizes the contents of his memo to the group, President Zachary presents a case to that he heard from a previous president’s meeting he had attended. He tells the group members that the case is important since it can assist them in the decisions they are trying to make. The case talks about a local board of education that wanted to pass a referendum that would have allowed it to cut its budget by a large amount of money. During this conversation, the president was asked to explain why the university had remained silent over the matter yet it was an educational one. The president replied by saying that he could not say anything about the matter since the last time the university raised its voice it was criticized. The meeting relies on previous university engagement in its debate. Roger Donaldson explains how the previous vice president of research talked to a reporter on the importance of a contested highway bypass to the university. However, this was not relevant to the university because it is interested in research activities. Donaldson gives an example of a relevant case where the university was heard supporting local ordinances that restricted operating bars near the campus. It was important for the university to be heard because part of its obligations is to ensure that alcohol is not used in the campus.
After this explanation, the group is informed that what they need to discuss is the value to be used in making decisions on whether the university should be heard or not. Jeanine Traxel wants to know the difference between moral and political issues because it is important for the group. George Andrews on the other hand brings another perspective to the discussion that the university can raise its voice as an employer or an educational institution. It is therefore important for the group to take note of this in its discussions.
Course of Action
Many questions arise during the President’s Policy Group meeting regarding when the university should raise its voice and when it should not. It is apparent that there are some local issues that are not relevant to the university and it is advisable that the university remains silent. Since the university is an academic institution, it should only be concerned with issues that are relevant to its research and academic mission. Eventually, the meeting seems to agree that the university should only be involved in matters that directly concern it. In other words, it should only take a position on issues it wants to act on or ones it has been acting on. It is agreed that members will come up with a decision making tree that will guide the university on when to be heard and when to remain silent.
Main Lessons learnt from the case
This case has two important lessons to be learned. The first lesson is that although universities are regarded as influential institutions in the society, they should not be expected to be involved in all social issues. The second lesson is that there are some social issues that universities might seem silent about simply because they once raised their voices and got negative feedback.