In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
My IHE blogger colleague Lee Bessette has tagged April 2 as a “day of higher ed,” complete with twitter hashtag #dayofhighered. The idea is to share with the general public just what it is, exactly, that those of us in higher ed do all day.
It’s a neat idea. Last week’s Washington Post column about how underworked professors are certainly invited a fact-based rebuttal, and the idea of generating a slew of first-person responses has a certain appeal.
That said, though, there are limits to what I can share about my day. Too much of it involves dealing with sensitive topics -- personnel issues, emerging grant applications, that sort of thing -- or issues that sort of bubble under the surface for a while, any one of which could erupt on any given day. I can share that at this point, I have four meetings scheduled for a total of five and a half hours -- pretty normal for a Monday -- and will spend a good chunk of the rest of the time preparing for some job interviews I’m conducting later this week. I will also tend to a few simmering issues that require attention soon, though some of them may slip into Tuesday. And of course, the unknown unknowns -- usually couched in the form of “got a minute?” -- are always out there.
Then there’s the family stuff. Up at 5 to work out before work. Later, Mondays bring the kids’ music lessons, and The Girl’s softball practices have started. Homework, the bedtime shuffle, blogging. And that book deadline is looming ever larger...
In my faculty days, I occasionally wondered just what it was that administrators did all day. (I say “occasionally” because I didn’t usually give it much thought.) I’ve tried conveying some of it through the blog, but some of it is just too sensitive or context-specific to be bloggable. Transparency is great, but discretion and even confidentiality have their place, too.
I’ll be reading other folks entries on higher ed day with interest, not least because the world of a community college and the world of, say, a research university are so very different. But also because it strikes me that the next step would be looking at ways to change what we do for the better.
If enough people participate, we’d have the raw material to do some serious reflection.
Ultimately, the winning response to the nagging cultural suspicion about academics not working hard enough isn’t “do, too!” It’s winning over the culture with a display of value that counts in terms that most people find understandable and important. If the kind of testimony offered during higher ed day helps spur that discussion internally so that we can make a better case for ourselves externally, then it’s all good.
So readers, have at it. If you’re on twitter, I’ll see you there. If not, pick the venue that works for you. But if you’re in higher ed, just what do you do all day?