Die Unwahrscheinlichkeit des Umweltmanagements

Übersetzung gesellschaftlicher Erwartungen in Hochschulstrukturen: Eine organisationsethnographische Fallstudie

Bielefeld University

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Lukas Daubner

Dr Lukas Daubner studied political science and sociology at Bielefeld University. He completed his PhD, supervised by Stefan Kühl and Bernd Kleimann (University of Kassel), in 2020. As part of his doctoral studies, Lukas taught as a research assistant in political sociology and completed a research stay at the Center for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES) in Porto. Lukas currently works as a fellow on the Green Modernity team at the Center for Liberal Modernity in Berlin.

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Expertise

  • Transformation processes in organizations and society
  • Political organization and communication
  • Policies and administration in higher education

Of interest to

  • University researchers
  • University practitioners
  • People interested in the relationship between society and organizations
Alexander Abero/Unsplash
Lukas Daubner

Dr Lukas Daubner studied political science and sociology at Bielefeld University. He completed his PhD, supervised by Stefan Kühl and Bernd Kleimann (University of Kassel), in 2020. As part of his doctoral studies, Lukas taught as a research assistant in political sociology and completed a research stay at the Center for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES) in Porto. Lukas currently works as a fellow on the Green Modernity team at the Center for Liberal Modernity in Berlin.

Let's have a?

Expertise

  • Transformation processes in organizations and society
  • Political organization and communication
  • Policies and administration in higher education

Of interest to

  • University researchers
  • University practitioners
  • People interested in the relationship between society and organizations

Interview

Russell Alt-Haaker
Editor

You describe it as unlikely that universities will make an effort to ensure greater protection for the environment. How did you reach this conclusion?

Lukas Daubner
is typing…
Russell Alt-Haaker
Redakteur

You describe it as unlikely that universities will make an effort to ensure greater protection for the environment. How did you reach this conclusion?

Lukas Daubner
Doktorand

First, a university must select environmental protection from among the many other important issues and decide to focus on it. But even if a university establishes an office dedicated to environmental protection and comes up with various ideas and measures to this end, it is by no means certain that the processes at a university will ultimately become more environmentally friendly. Many stakeholders can have a say in such decisions: the university management, the academic senate, individual departments, professors, and student representatives. As a result, decisions have to pass through lots of hoops, taking many interests into account. The opportunities and situations in which an environmental measure might change are therefore myriad. Once the decision has been made to implement a measure, it must also be possible to incorporate it into the day-to-day work of the administration. This is not to mention the fact that academic staff can simply ignore many requirements that come from the administration.

Russell Alt-Haaker
Redakteur

When most people think of ethnography, they think of distant tribal societies. Why do you use this method to study university administrations?

Lukas Daubner
Doktorand

For about 100 years now, researchers have been applying ethnographic tools to their own societies, such as when looking at street gangs, stock-market trading—or university administrations. In my opinion, the advantage of organizational ethnographies is that they make it possible to apprehend organizations in their entire complexity. Not only do the formal rules become visible, but the informal (as it were) cultural aspects do, too: long-simmering conflicts between certain departments, short official channels, “usable illegalities”. By shadowing people during their everyday work, I was able to observe how decisions are prepared, taken, and finally implemented. Despite comparable structural characteristics, these processes are different from university to university. Ethnography uncovers the deep structure of a university and provides better insight into what really happens there.

Russell Alt-Haaker
Redakteur

Do you want universities to draw practical lessons from your findings on how decisions are taken in order to make it easier for them to establish environmental management programmes? Or what impact would you like your dissertation to have?

Lukas Daubner
Doktorand

Although I find the normative goal of ensuring environmentally friendly operations at universities important, I am not interested in creating a manual for good environmental management practices. On the contrary, the study reveals that such guides always start from overly simple, linear ideas. Organizations are complex, however, simmering beneath the formal surface. This won’t end with good management, especially since the social environment is constantly changing and coming up with new expectations. So despite all the good intentions to make reforms, it remains rather unlikely that changes will actually be achieved.That said, it wouldn’t hurt any university to establish an office or a position for environmental management and to pay attention to the linkages in operations. The influence of the administrative side of a university on teaching and research remains extremely limited. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter, this must be acknowledged as fact.

Keywords

Transformation processes, university, institute of higher education, environmental protection, environmental measures, climate protection, EMAS, environmental management, environmental management programme, university administration, university structures, systems theory, ethnography, social expectations

Abstract

The urgency within society to act to protect the environment and the climate does not translate perfectly into the same kind of urgency for organizations. Nonetheless, universities as organizations are also expected to transform their research and teaching activities and their operations to ensure greater environmental sustainability. Based on the assumption that such changes are unlikely, this study examines how an EMAS-certified environmental management programme is established and operates at two universities of applied sciences. The research draws on systems theory and takes an ethnographic approach to the case studies to reveal how university administrations prepare and take decisions and, furthermore, what effects these decisions have on the other university structures. Key actors in this process are administrative departments. Field observations uncover the challenges such departments face in translating abstract programmes into university structures and making them compatible, at least in part. Decisions have to be prepared and guided through the university’s many decision-making bottlenecks, where measures are either adjusted and polished or rejected. Communication among those present (interaction) is a key form of communication in the efforts to cumulate and prepare environmental protection measures; this form of communication fulfils functions that an administration’s usual written communication does not. In addition to the challenges of establishing environmental protection on the administrative level, the study also demonstrates how the expectations of an administration regularly run up against the institutional boundaries of teaching and research. Academics and scientists can largely only be presented with voluntary measures. As a result, the collaboration of administrative departments with academic staff turns out to be complicated and piecemeal. These observations illustrate that changes resulting from environmental expectations are often primarily symbolic in nature. Changes to the deep structure occur only through self-adjustments. Despite the efforts of management, such adjustments are not linear, often unintended, and thus remain unlikely.

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Repository

pub.uni-bielefeld.de

Identifiers

978-3-96037-343-8

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