With focus on quality and collegiality - how the work has been for the School Faculty Assembly
It is soon time to elect members for the ABE School Faculty Assembly for the next term of office. Erik Stenberg, Associate Professor at KTH Architecture, has been chair of the assembly during the first term of office and tells us how it has been and what the School Faculty Assembly does.
What has it been like to be chair and member of the School Faculty Assembly?
It has been fun! I like the ABE school and the school's staff, and I really appreciate the wide network of contacts in the assembly, to get to know more about how things are at other departments and to get to know more colleagues better. It's like having another fika room! You also get to know KTH on another level. As chair, I have participated in meetings at KTH level and met the Vice Dean, the Faculty Council and the teacher representatives on KTH's board. It has been interesting to be involved in developing the opportunity to gather as colleagues regardless of role and assignment and to discuss academic citizenship as employees at KTH.
There may have been some worries that the School Faculty Assembly would become a forum for dissatisfaction, but this has not come true. There have been great, constructive discussions. The School Faculty Assembly is not necessarily looking to find all the answers, but we discuss and raise various issues. What has the career path looked like for me, what has it looked like for others? How do we want it to be at KTH? It is both interesting and enriching to hear everyone's different experiences and views.
How has the work within the School Faculty Assembly been carried out?
We started by formulating a question about what this new context would contribute with - what is the School Faculty Assembly for and how should we move forward? Vice President Agnieszka Zalejska Jonsson and I coordinated the work and began by interviewing the preparation group (the elected colleagues). From these conversations, we carved out theme areas that we wanted to discuss and then we put together different working groups for each theme. The preparation group has been able to divide tasks between us, which has worked very well. The School Faculty Assembly functions both as a consultation body and a discussion forum. The meetings twice per semester have been divided into about one hour for our self-initiated questions and 30 minutes for consultation questions, sounding board questions, etc.
What issues have been discussed in the ABE School Faculty Assembly?
There have been a number of different themes. We have for example discussed the distribution of power from different angles - the academic leadership and how it works, the relationship between central KTH, the ABE school and individual researchers, and the division of responsibilities between the line organization and individual researchers. Another issue has been the linguistic diversity - which is not only about Swedish or English but also about the fact that many members of staff work in a language that may not be their first, second or even third language. Language skills can be a barrier or opening to get, or avoid, more assignments. Who is allowed space in the room? It is considered important to learn Swedish after a time at KTH, but who follows up, plans and finances this? With the pandemic, of course, digitization has also been a topic of discussion - the rapid digitization, its effects and how the situation has affected the quality of both education, research and collaboration. The teachers was on their knees while the research in many cases has worked well, at least in already established projects. Collaboration was often more challenging as it was more difficult both to reach out and to create new contacts.
We have conducted meetings around and within these different themes. In terms of content, we also continue to come back to common issues such as career paths / tenure track, how KTH works as a workplace, inclusion and exclusion - the coffee break talk formalized, you could almost say. We also have for example discussed the collaboration policy and been asked to contribute to the work with the school's operational plan last year.
Is the subjects discussed in local faculty assembly passed on, for example to KTH's collegial forum?
Yes exactly! We have had separate meetings with the Dean and Vice Dean, where each school has told about their work within the School Faculty Assembly and that makes you really understand how big KTH is, and how many issues are common. As a member of the School Faculty Assembly, you are part of a context where the distance is significantly shorter to central KTH and the other schools. Actually, the really central question is: How do we increase quality? We have a lot in common as faculty at KTH, regardless of subject or school, and short distances are needed to ensure that the quality is even better, in education, research and collaboration. It is definitely a core issue - not a side issue or second thought. An important part of that work is to be able to raise issues from the bottom up. The school board is not a remuneration for the line organization, but participating is a very good way to be involved in KTH's quality development and other important issues.