Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Little Rant

I read the blog of a certain administrative writer who was lamenting yesterday yet again about the evils of tenured faculty.  Basically, the lament goes like this:  if the tenured folks would just do what I tell them without questioning or talking back, my college/the state of education/the whole world would be better, work more efficiently and effectively, and serve students better.  Often, the lament about tenured folks is tied to a lament about unions.  (There's often an undertone of regret that a former employer which was very top down failed, because the blogger can see how very much better a top down approach is.)

The post I just read basically questioned how to innovate when tenured folks are in the way and want input, and that input is seen as negative and inspired by defensiveness about our role.

Maybe I've gotten cynical, but the number of administrators I've now experienced who come into a position and want to make their mark is more than I can count on one hand.  They come in, mandate some massive change, push it through, and then leave, and those of us in the faculty and on the ground work through the problems and try to make it work, and then comes along another administrator and "pivots" and mandates a different change, equally big, totally focused on something else.  And then we do a massive five or ten year strategic plan, but then the administrator leaves, and the next comes in and ignores the plan in favor of their mandate, and then a year or two in, claims that the faculty is horrible because we don't put the strategic plan into effect, and writes a whole new strategic plan line on their CV, and then moves on.

All of these plans end up calling for new administrative positions, and end up putting more students in courses, and then criticizing faculty who lecture to rooms of 100 or more students.  New administrators are hired, who demand more paperwork, and demand that we add the paperwork to the other things we're doing, and then change their mind and demand different paperwork because the first didn't work after all.

I love hearing that administrator X has just come from a special conference at a super fancy hotel in a big city, which was totally paid for by the school, although they didn't give a paper, organize a session, or do anything more than sit around and get lectured at by gurus (probably about how bad lecturing is).  And then I'm trying to put together my funding for a conference to stay in a dorm room.  Ugh.

Okay, enough.

I'm exhausted because I've barely slept all week.  I need to find time to do some work, but my time feels especially fractured here.


  1. "They come in, mandate some massive change, push it through, and then leave..."

    Yes. And we end up the line on their CV. Yes.

    I've seen maybe 2 or 3 good administrators in my 30 some years in this field, and two of those were before these ridiculous salary spikes started happening.

  2. Our entire department faculty just called and had a meeting with the dean about something like this. We're still not sure if it's incompetence or malevolence on the part of said administrator, but the dean sold it as a failure of communication and problems with context switching.

    I will say that we pay our administrators enough to get good ones, but this new guy not so much.

  3. YES!!!

    This is actually happening in several different parts of the university over the last few years and the different mandates are in conflict, which is being dealt with by ignoring the contradictory nature of the instructions and getting mad with us academics for not following them "properly"

  4. Ohh man, you've just described the revolving door provostship at my institution. (We have a brief respite right now, since the current provost came from the faculty ranks and has spent pretty much his whole career here, but he's close to retirement and I'm dreading what happens after that.)

  5. Implementing someone else's plan is like trying to get funding & credit for building maintenance: it's not happening. New plans help their CV, as you say, and since they're not around to see the chaos (or the reasons WHY faculty will drag their feet at doing all the work for the next new thing), they can't understand that.

  6. My school solved the grumpy-tenured-professor problem by demoting any tenured chairs in the college of arts and sciences that argued with them, and replaced them with untenured assistant profs who will say yes to whatever they want. As an untenured prof who did argue, I didn't stay a chair for very long, and I was replaced by the biggest yes-man tenured person on campus. Fully half of our chairs are untenured now in order to keep them in line. (The others are tenured yes-men/women.) And if you can keep the chairs in line, you can keep everyone else in line. At least, that seems to be their way of thinking.

  7. Can you provide a link to the blog? If it's public, it should be linked, so we can see for ourselves. I thought you might have meant Matt Reed, but your description doesn't match anything I've read lately on his blog.

  8. sophylou9:49 PM

    Yes... having this experience as well -- although at this point I actually wish the administrator(s) in question would hurry up and leave so we could figure out some real strategies for dealing with Failed Thing. And then, at the university level, we now have two almost entirely contradictory missions, so... um... huh?

  9. This rings very true. Staff support has shrunk, deanlets and similar have proliferated. We faculty are constantly being scolded for misbehaving. I hate our current dean, I really hope he takes his line on the CV and goes away (he's also one constantly pissy because he can't be as top-down and heavy-handed as he'd like because the institution has a legacy of shared governance). In the meantime, our TA support has gone poof, and class sizes have skyrocketed, because of the insanity that is the constant call for higher enrollment without actually hiring the people to support those enrollments. And don't get me started on changing the course management system every few years so I have to lose days importing and exporting and converting the materials for all my classes, again. And somehow faculty are the problem?

    Thank you for this post, it's perfectly on point. It was good to read, have thoughts and feelings validated.