When I moved into administration after being a professor, a colleague who had made the same move years before told me to brace for the loss of my faculty friends.
Impossible, I argued -- we attended regular Friday cocktail hours, had fought and won battles across campus, supported each other across the thorny paths leading to tenure and promotion. We’d been through it all, and those are precisely the kinds of experiences that make for lasting relationships.
I was wrong. My colleague was right.
About this time in my career, I began noticing for the first time the term “incivility” in higher ed news. Perhaps I noticed it because for the first time, it rang true. Where once I had been respected as a caring teacher and a hardworking colleague, I was now viewed with suspicion.
Now perceived as someone out for personal glory and set on bungling things for everyone else, I began finding it difficult to interact with my department (where I still taught one course a semester). After my move to the administration building, returning to my home department was like returning to the house of ex-in-laws after a bad divorce -- everyone froze, smiled stiffly and waited for me to leave. This office had been my home for over 15 years.
Inside Higher Ed recently reprinted a letter to the Financial Times advice column “Dear Lucy,” in which a disgruntled faculty member inquired, “Should I plot the downfall of our dean?” The offense that inspired this angry faculty member to ask the question was this: while traveling to Asia with a special delegation from his university’s business school, he had been forced to sit in coach. Directly in his line of sight was his dean, seated in the much more comfortable business class. For this, the dean must be destroyed.
While not all of us in the academy engage in this kind of career terrorism, we have all at least witnessed or been privy to such schemes and dark plots. I have myself experienced deep frustration as a faculty member, feeling underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Certainly I would not have been pleased to be dragging an administrator along to a professional meeting, either. And I would have especially been dreading the stiff small talk at baggage claim, or the forced chat at the evening’s cocktail hour.
Also quite familiar was the willingness on the part of a faculty member to assign the worst motives to that seat placement and to wish on the dean the disaster of losing his job. The language “plot the downfall” contains a kind of professional violence too often at play in relationships between faculty and administrators. It’s an aspect of academic life of which we should not be proud.
Over lunch I once asked a professor friend whom I admired a great deal -- with impeccable scholarship, this superb teacher made one of the highest faculty salaries and enjoyed research release time and summers away -- if s/he really thought “all administrators were bad people.” The answer came back an unblinking, “Yes.”
I was an administrator at the time.
“Administrator” does not signify “human being” in scenarios like the one I just described. In such cases of deep suspicion administrators are assumed to be self-centered mismanagers or, worse, bloodless careerists. And certainly not committed to the institutions they serve. This is precisely the objectifying of others that we teach our students to recognize and reject. It is a powerful tool for excusing or justifying hostility toward an identity position. And it was certainly at play inside that airplane.
As an administrator I am precisely the same person I was when I was on the faculty. Same strengths, same weaknesses, same commitments to my family, identical professional goals. And to be fair, when I made the move to administration, I did not lose every friend, and my next administrative post included some very nice relationships with faculty colleagues.
But there is no question that once I became an administrator, simply by virtue of being an administrator, I fell under the suspicion of many. Was I seeking power? Would I continue to value teaching? Had I lost my mind? Was it mere greed driving my decision?
The truth is, on most campuses, there are not pots of money squirreled away under deans’ desks; we don’t enjoy giant travel budgets or outsize benefits packages. And we continue to possess whatever powers of ratiocination we enjoyed before.
What’s different: we carry responsibilities across a college or unit that force difficult decisions that are quite visible and affect many people, and that will often result in deep disappointments for some while satisfying (even rewarding) others. Many deans/provosts admit that these are jobs few would actually want if they knew beforehand what they were getting into, because it can be difficult to exist happily on a campus under a cloud of suspicion, making decisions that will destroy your credibility with one half of the campus one week and render you despised by the other half the next.
Yet I chose administration because of these difficulties; they suit me. I love higher education, am committed to student success, deeply respect faculty and research. Me? I’m a fine (not great) scholar and a respected teacher, but my heart is in the institutional project and has been for a long time.
And while I have endured much incivility in my new administrative life, it would not be fair to attribute the loss of true friendships to mere malice or professional pettiness. In truth, we tried to stay close at first, but whatever suspicions my faculty friends harbored about administration in general hung between us, squashing conversation.
Friday night debriefs over cocktails became impossible if I attended. There were things I couldn’t share, gossip I could no longer indulge in -- guessing other deans’ motives, parsing the language of the president’s latest missive. We have all known the fun of harmless gossip with colleagues; it’s part of being close friends at work. Sadly, the nature of academe itself, with its intractable tension between faculty and administration, had rendered me an outsider, and I could never go back.
Academe has become known for its internecine warring, as a place fraught and gossipy and deeply bifurcated. And often not a little ridiculous. Certainly the gentleman asking Lucy’s advice above works in a place like that.
If you are a career academic reading this, you recognize what I’m saying. You’ve been on one or both sides of this business. As an administrator who still believes in the higher education enterprise, I’d ask faculty to think next time the impulse to plot strikes, and to remember that many of us in administration are just as competent as we were as faculty, and no matter where we are seated on a plane, still as human.
After 15 years as a professor of English, Kellie Bean became an associate dean and then provost.
Significant share of research papers have "guest" authors who didn't perform significant research or "ghost" authors who did but aren't named, study finds. Are grad students losing out? Are conflicts of interest hidden?
Happy New Year! In China, this is the Year of the Green Sheep, which betokens fortune and prosperity.
[It’s easy to contribute money online. Check out www.uap.com/donate.]
If you’ve visited campus recently, you might have been surprised by our recent growth. At the far end of campus is our new No Sweat Rec Center, with its 12,000-square-foot yoga space, ergonometric juice bar and personal trainers in a two-to-one trainer-student ratio.
Opposite from the rec center in more than location is the Six Flags Food Court, with fast food from over five nations, including ours. Stop by our Mexicana stand for a plate of re-refried beans!
[Got money? Go to www.uap.com/donate.]
But it’s easy to get money for the amenities. It’s far harder for the humanities, where the last banner year was over a decade ago, when 2002 alumnus Greg Aryus donated $100 for a couple of library books. Well, never mind the humanities, which are hopeless these days in consumer branding. As an English department faculty member recently remarked, “Shakespeare belongs to everyone,” a lovely sentiment but not, I think, one that can be monetized efficiently.
For that matter, the natural sciences, too, have experienced setbacks, though the cyclotron accident in Mayhem Hall this past June can now be safely put behind us. The only bright light at the end of the tunnel is our Shekels School of Business, which managed to place a record 33 percent of its graduates last year, if “place” is interpreted as some kind of activity for some kind of remuneration.
[Donating money online is easy, through our intermediary makeapledge.com! Just go to www.uap.com/donate, and click on the empty-coffer icon. For non-liberal arts graduates: a coffer is a box for holding money.]
Of course, times have changed. The purpose of a university education has grown a step beyond college sports, casual hook-ups and drinking. With the national economy on the skids so long that slave-labor internships look good, it’s understandable that students demand jobs at the end of their four, five or six years here. As a recent graduate asked me just the other day, “How come I took courses in Plato and trigonometry, but the only postgraduation job I could snag was holiday helper at Kmart?” To which I could reply only, “Was that you in the green elf costume?”
[Remember your alma mater! www.uap.com/donate]
Of course, another reply is to note the very real achievements of some of our graduates:
Angelo “I’m no angel” Angelino, class of 2011, is now deputy assistant at the AMA, Association of Mob Affiliations, having recently survived what he good-humoredly calls “a brush with the law.” He’s recently donated a warehouse of major appliances that “fell off the truck.”
Dominique (Dom to her friends and clientele), class of 2008, is now mistress of her own dungeon, putting her double major in psychology and leisure science to good use. Always on the lookout for a few good subs, she’s just put out a new ad: “Check out my brand-spanking-new equipment -- and new spanking equipment!” She’s recently sent in funds for the construction of three Dom dorm rooms -- all sub-basement, of course.
[Got a business to advertise? Place a notice in the UAP Recording Angel alumni magazine, at www.uap.edu/record-ang/ads]
Here on campus, we haven’t exactly been idle, either, though the salary freeze since 2006 has prompted some to start enterprises on the side. The latest to do so is Professor M. T. Soote in Business, who’s begun an entrepreneurial institute that has already parlayed three bake sales into the Comestibles Exchange, with a trading value of $5 per cupcake.
[Psst! It’s cool to give! www.uap.com/donate]
That’s about it for now -- in fact, that’s all we have -- though please remember to keep us posted, via the megaphone icon, just to the left of the empty-coffer donation icon. In addition:
Check out our revamped website, www.uap.edu, which includes links to all available social media (like us on Facebook!). This month, we’re offering a virtual UAP lapel pin for the biggest alum donor-tweeter.
Attend homecoming, which this year will feature a special reception for our largest donee, To Be Announced.
Drop in. The campus is probably somewhat as you remember it. Check out your old haunts and recall a time when food fights didn’t mean squabbling over who gets to eat.
[U of All People: Where begging for funds has become a way of life. www.uap.com/donate]
With open hands out,
David Galef directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His latest book is the short story collection My Date With Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Books).
Following a spate of recent clashes between student newspapers and administrations, a group of national journalism organizations on Thursday announced a boot camp-style training project for student journalists facing censorship or other kinds of adversity. The Student Press Law Center, the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors will deploy what they’re calling the J-Team to work with student journalists on investigative reporting and other skills. The team’s first mentoring session is next week at the University of Iowa, where members will meet with student journalists from Iowa’s Muscatine Community College. Editors from Muscatine’s student newspaper, The Calumet, are currently suing the college for allegedly removing a journalism adviser and otherwise retaliating against them for writing about a faculty committee member who reportedly voted to give a scholarship to a family member.
“The most effective response to colleges that try to intimidate journalists is to do even more aggressive, impactful journalism,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center and a team member, said in a news release. “The J-Team will send a clear message to colleges across the country that, when you attack student journalists, you are awakening the entire journalism community and your efforts to silence inquisitive journalism will only backfire.”
Muscatine College officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds and considered one of the world's leading sociologists, has been accused of serial "self-plagiarism" or reusing old material in new books, Times Higher Education reported. A new paper states that 12 of his books contain “substantial quantities of material that appear to have been copied near-verbatim and without acknowledgment from at least one of the other books sampled. Several books contain very substantial quantities of text -- running into several thousands of words, and in the worst case almost 20,000 -- that have been reused from earlier Bauman books without acknowledgment.” Bauman and Polity, the publisher of many of the books, declined to comment.
The faculty union for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has gone to state court to seek an injunction to block the system from starting background checks on all employees, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Union leaders say that state law requires only that those who teach or work with minors be subject to background checks, and that most professors do not teach or work with minors. Union leaders also note that the law doesn't count as a minor those who are enrolled at a college or visiting a college as a prospective student. But university leaders say that all campus employees should have background checks because many minors visit campuses for summer programs or other events.