bodies and higher education institutions are both open systems. Using the human body
as an analogy for a university body, the inter-relationships between various campus roles
are analyzed. Faculty, staff, and administration must work together interdependently
for a school to be healthy and vital.
The human body is a
tremendously complex and versatile creation. With
training and practice, people can condition their bodies to lift heavy weights, jump great
heights, or run extremely fast over a variety of distances.
Gymnasts can jump and twist their bodies in the air, ballerinas can balance
and turn on their toes, and martial artists can spin and strike objects with tremendous
force. The body can also be trained to throw
objects with great velocity and precision and to strike and accurately hit objects with
bats, clubs, and racquets. With purposeful
training and conditioning, people can make their bodies do extraordinary things.
The powerhouse of
the body is the heart and lungs. Those organs
and their related systems supply all of the parts of the body with the oxygen that is used
to keep it moving. The head coordinates the
actions of the body by scanning the environment for information and sending signals to the
arms and legs to move and react. All parts
of the body must function together in combination for it to perform. A twisted joint, a pulled muscle, or an infection
or illness in one part of a body can slow down or hurt the overall performance of the
Human bodies are
open systems. They import energy from the
environment and use it to function and give off waste.
As systems, they are composed of subsystems and are parts of larger systems. The elements of the systems are arranged in
purposeful manners and work together interdependently to accomplish their purposes. All subsystems of a larger system must also be in
perfect balance with each other for the overall system to function most effectively.
When human bodies
are inactive or unhealthy, they are not able to perform well. A sedentary lifestyle and improper nutrition can
lead to weakened hearts, lungs, and muscles. The
brain must command the arms and legs to exercise to strengthen themselves and the heart
and lungs. The brain also dictates what the
body consumes for food. A healthy and
high-performance body comes about from conscious choice and strenuous and consistent
conditioning. A healthy body is a journey and
not a destination.
There are certain parts of the body that are more
vital to its survival than others. If someone
has a problem with their heart, it generally warrants immediate attention and treatment. Without a functioning heart, the body will not
survive. The same applies to the other vital
organs in the core of the body. Brains are
also important to protect. However, one
seldom hears of cases where a persons brain suddenly stops working without some type
of injury or traumaunlike a heart which, in the case of a heart attack, can suddenly
stop working. The arms and legs, while very
helpful to the core of the body, can be sacrificed if necessary. Exceptional performance is mostly likely to
occur when all of the parts are healthy and functioning.
Colleges and universities are also open systems. As such, they share many characteristics with
human bodies. They are dependent upon inputs
and resources from the environment, they process and transform the inputs into outputs,
and give off waste. Colleges and universities
are made up of subsystems that are composed of many elements that must work together in a
coordinated manner to function most effectively. They
can be healthy and able to perform unusual and exceptional things or they can be
sedentary, inactive, and out of shape. When
even one part of the university is injured or not performing up to standards, the
performance of the whole institution can suffer.
As with a human
body, certain elements and subsystems of a university are more critical than others. When downsizing occurs or jobs get cut, certain
positions will remain until the very end. Because
colleges and universities are ultimately about teaching and learning, the positions that
are directly involved in teaching and learning are the most critical. The decision-making brains of institutions are
also importantthey direct the supporting arms and legs to move, exercise, and keep
the core strong and they consciously direct the arms and legs to supply the whole body
with healthy food.
The heart and lungs
of colleges and universities are the faculty. Without
the faculty, teaching will not occur. The
decisions and actions of the institutions should all be directed to supporting their
teaching functions. The staff and support
areas of campus, the arms and legs, should all be actively involved in supporting the
health and vitality of the instructional core. The
brain and head, or the administrative and institutional leadership of the institution,
should coordinate the actions of the limbs to keep the heart and lungs healthy. The brain should keep the arms and legs safe and
strong through consistent exercise, thereby also strengthening the core, to allow the
institution to be most effective. The brain
must also make conscious choices to supply the entire body with healthy inputs. The brain must use information collected from its
sensory systems to direct the body away from dangerous and harmful situations and toward
those that can be safe and productive for the body.
In the human body,
the parts do not argue, bicker, and play politics with each other. They are an integrated whole that mutually depend
on each other for their existence. Arms do
not get jealous of attention and resources given to the legs, the brain does not horde
resources at the expense of the heart, and legs do not sabotage or speak ill things about
the other parts of the body. If every part of
the body does not care for and respect the other parts of the body, the existence of the
entire system can be in danger.
The care of other
parts of the body is a two-way street. The
faculty depends on the staff to provide them with students and resources needed for
instruction, but the staff also depends on the faculty for the energy and oxygen needed to
fulfill their roles. A heart that does not
pump energy to the limbs and brain will find itself part of a dysfunctional body that is
unable to maintain proper health and activity. Recruiters,
marketers, and development officers need energy and vitality from the faculty to
successfully fulfill their roles. When
problems with the body arise, the brain must recognize them and seek out appropriate
remedies to bring the body back into proper balance.
When colleges and
universities are properly conditioned and directed, they can accomplish unusual and
exceptional things. When not, they can lose
vitality, atrophy, and eventually die. Maintaining
a healthy body is better to do than letting one run down and then bringing it back into
shape. Exceptional accomplishments and
performances, like those of gifted ballerinas and athletes, come from purposeful and
consistent practice and training, a commitment to excellence, and dedication from all
parts of the body.