Friday, September 30, 2011


Tangles of administrative stuff these days. Once upon a time – well, maybe until 5 or 6 years ago – because I am indeed a slow, slow learner* – I believed that somewhere up there, somewhere among the tenured faculty, somewhere in upper echelons of administration (& by implication, somewhere in the government, somewhere among the well-established poets), there were actual grown-ups: you know, people who knew what they were doing, who did it well, and who did their best to make the whole ungainly machine move forward & work smoothly for everyone involved.

I still believe in grown-ups in high places; but I've just realized that they're a hell of a lot scarcer than I once thought. I won't go into the details of my current irritations with Our Fair University; I'm sure irritations like them're shared by a great number of colleagues in higher education – probably the vast majority. Let's just say I've learned a few things about the difference between administrators & classroom instructors/researchers: or, for that matter, between those who do the actual day-to-day work in an organization – "labor" – & those who think of themselves as "management":
•The vast majority of administrator/managers are possessed with a remarkable absence of imagination (and hereafter "The vast majority" should be understood – not everybody, just most...)

•Administrator/managers are therefore highly rule-bound individuals; the substance of work that passes under their eyes is of less importance than whether or not it follows the minutiae of form

•Administrator/managers are highly territorial, & are constantly striving to define the boundaries of what they hold sway – oversight – over

•Administrator/managers are as well imperial: their territories are never quite broad enough, and need constant expansion; more and more of the everyday work of the labor force gets codified, formalized, & quantified

•Which implies, clearly enough, that administration/management are rather wonderfully pure examples of "instrumental reason" – and indeed, they understand no other kind of rationality
Colleagues at Our Fair University probably have sussed that I'm talking about The Graduate College, an administrative body whose purpose I don't understand – tho I do know that they seem to be able to hire highly-paid after highly-paid person, even as the academic departments keep getting the poor mouth from higher administration – but whose tentacular reach has been creeping into more and more of our everyday activities. I wish they'd go away, and let me and my colleagues do our jobs – which we do, on the whole rather well.

*And I'm not kidding about that; I really am a slow learner. It takes an ungodly number of times thru a book or a concept before I can get the hang of anything.

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