The Politics of Securing Campus Budget Resources: A Case Study of Three Reputedly Exemplary Chairpersons at a Public University

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This exploratory, qualitative case study examines the budget strategies, or influence efforts, of three reputedly exemplary Chairpersons who sought campus budget resources to support their departments and academic priorities. A political perspective of academic organizations anchors the analytic framework for this study. The Chairpersons in this study are from the Departments of Sociology-Anthropology, Biology, and Communications in a College of Arts & Sciences in a public, comprehensive university.

A cross-case analysis answers five central research questions that guided this inquiry. The evidence in this research reveals that the Chairpersons' reputation for being successful at securing campus resources is supported by evidence of favorable budget decision outcomes, by attributional data indicating that knowledgeable individuals view the Chairs as a major reason for the departments getting resources, and by behavioral data suggesting that the Chairs use power bases and political skill and will to influence resource allocation decisions.

The key findings reveal that the Chairs: (1) broadened their targets of influence in an effort to shape allocation decisions for their departments; (2) sought reasonable budget resources which may have reduced difficulties in securing resources; (3) were successful, in part, because their requests were aligned with university priorities and the priorities of the Dean and campus leaders; (4) possessed relevant power resources that were viewed by some to be a factor in their success; and (5) employed a common set of strategies.

This study extends current literature on general budgeting practices in higher education settings, budget strategies chosen by department Chairs, and the power and influence of academic department Chairs. Where some studies focus only on listing strategies or limiting analysis to strategies on preparing the budget itself, this study analyzes contextual issues and the dynamics that affect the choice of strategies for securing budget resources. Three conclusions and three recommendations for future research are included in the study.