An educational reform commission and institutional change :case study of the policies, politics, and processes of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
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Motivated by concerns posed by college athletics and questions about the effectiveness of educational reform commissions, this study centered on two questions: specifically, How did the Knight Commission function to bring policy reform to college sports?; and, generally, How does an independent, temporary commission influence organizational change? Grounded in the reform commission literature and a conceptual framework developed from political science, policy science, and organizational change theories, the research design employed two approaches - one inductive and one deductive - to focus on five areas of inquiry.
Political processes were pivotal in bringing change. A "policy window" developed from the confluence of new, supportive key actors, public opinion favorable to reform, and threats of Congressional intervention. The Commission's empowerment created a choice opportunity for long-involved stakeholders to reauthorize athletic governance reform. Prior to empowerment, key actors reached consensus on core values and reform approach.
The Knight Commission's operation enhanced the authority of key actors with standing as policy makers. Although intellectual undertakings supported an image of objective rationality, the Commission served more as an inter-organizational governance tool. Cross-fertilization" resulting from Commissioners who served as "linking pins" (Likert, 1967) between political systems, united a broad coalition on a single plan. A reform model that buttressed higher education values and was embedded in long-accepted principles of governance manipulated the "policy space" in athletics to focus debate on its issues.
Other Commission activities served to enhance its "subjective authority" (Barnard, 1938) - acceptance at the bottom of the organization. The study process utilized "partisan policy analysis" (Lindblom, 1968) to persuade operational-level stakeholders. The report recommendations advanced the largest perceived increment of policy change that would not threaten its "acceptance." The extensive publicity surrounding report release served to inform and prepare the bottom layer of involved organizations and the public for change suggested by a representative group of eminent policy leaders. With enhanced authority and concordance on reform agenda, cross-boundary members successfully initiated policy reform. The still-intact Knight Commission supported internal policy makers and became accepted as a legitimate provider of policy influence.
- Doctoral Dissertations