Decisions

You have a right to know how I make them.

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 am

Since we are still just beginning to know one another and to work together, I think it’s only fair that you have some idea of what I value when making decisions. At an all-campus meeting on Sept. 20, I shared my belief in: Fairness. Fairness is my guiding decision-making principle. And really, it’s a social justice issue. What we’ve worked for and continue to work for in this country is not so much this Supreme Court decision or that constitutional amendment. At our core, we simply want everyone to be treated fairly. In every decision I make, I will ask myself and others if the decision is consistent with basic standards of fairness.Transparency. Fairness often begins with a transparent, well-described process for making a decision or resolving an issue — a process that everyone can understand. Some decisions themselves may be unexpected, but there should be no surprises about how decisions get made; and everyone in our community deserves to understand why decisions are made in a particular way. Confidentiality. I don’t believe in secrets. I do believe very strongly in honoring commitments to confidentiality. Keeping secrets means not revealing information that should be public. Respecting confidentiality means keeping personal information — such as an individual’s personnel records, medical records, and other privileged information — private. Indeed, there is much information that cannot be divulged by law or by college policy. So while our decision-making process needs to be transparent, I won’t violate anyone’s confidentiality for any reason. As a doctor, a scientist, and a medical researcher, I know how essential it is to respect everyone’s privacy. Shared governance. We practice shared governance at Grinnell — many different groups have input into most of our decisions: students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and others. The great advantage of shared governance is that it promotes inclusion of a rich body of perspectives into decisions. That broad input can greatly improve decisions made, but there still needs to be a person or group who ultimately makes final decisions. Shared governance is not easy, and what it means is often misunderstood. Shared governance does not mean that decisions are ultimately made by popular vote — no complex organization can run that way. I see a large part of my job as taking in and thinking about a wide range of perspectives on important College decisions. It means that a big part of my job is to listen —to listen hard and listen well — to a variety of different perspectives and to make sure that we make the best decision we can. I hope that even in those situations when the final decision is not the choice of everyone in our community, everyone feels that he or she understands the final decision and its reasons and, perhaps most importantly, has had an opportunity to participate in the process. Evidence. As a researcher and a scientist, I believe in making decisions based on evidence whenever possible. And as a sign over one of my colleagues’ desks at NIH read, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” That doesn’t mean I try to quantify everything — there are many very important things that cannot be quantified. But I believe we owe it to ourselves and to the College to do our research and make decisions informed by the best information we can find. Grinnell’s unique culture, values, and mission. That uniqueness drew me here. I believe very strongly that all the decisions we make and I make must reflect that culture, those values, and that mission. I ask you all to help me in making sure that they do.