• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    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.


Friday Fragments

A moment of silence, roles that matter, for-profits that stop being for-profits.

October 9, 2015

Yesterday's staff meeting was small -- five of us in the room -- but it started with a moment of silence in memory of the people killed at Umpqua Community College.

It was a little awkward, and a little weird, and kind of a strange way to start a staff meeting. I hope that moments like that never feel normal.  


Zappos’  experiment in "holacracy" -- basically, a top-down form of syndicalism -- is doomed to catastrophic failure. I say that in part as a political theorist, in part as someone who read Lord of the Flies, and in part as someone who understands the concept of legal challenges.

In a setting without titles, roles, rules, or bosses, if someone claims discrimination, who's on the hook? Leaving aside the larger claims about human nature -- color me skeptical -- I can't imagine trying to get through a deposition. “What’s your usual hiring process?”  “Well, we don’t really have one…” “How are salaries determined?” “Well, we have a system of badges…” “What are the criteria for those badges?” “We don’t really have any…” It’s a monster payout waiting to happen.

Bureaucracy is easy to attack, heaven knows, but some level of it serves a purpose. It can bring regularity and responsibility to decision-making. When nobody knows what the rules are, they tend to devolve to whichever clique has the most clout.  Say what you will about HR departments, for example, but they enforce some level of basic consistency in the ways people are treated.

I had to roll my eyes at Zappos' habit of calling meetings for ten o'clock on Sunday nights. Their idea of work-life balance is sacrificing life to work. If the price of work-life balance is putting up with some clunky HR rules, I'm willing to pay it.


For-profit colleges that go non-profit are actually cheating the system and enriching their owners?

I'm shocked. Shocked, I say.

Honestly, some things are predictable. Last year when the news broke about ECMC buying colleges and turning them non-profit, I did a post in which I tried, unsuccessfully, to suss out a motive. Was it securing sinecures? Getting data on students?

Nope.  It was flat-out cheating.  



"I have my backpack, my purse, my sheet music, my chromebook, and my sombrero. I'm ready!"

So sayeth The Girl Thursday morning, getting ready for school.


I don't think I'd ever heard the words "chromebook" and "sombrero" in the same sentence before...


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