Tenured Radical On Academic Administration

October 31, 2009

Tenured Radical hits one out of the park in her review of a new book by Stanley Fish:

I particularly like the idea of administrators doing their job well so that I can pay close attention to what I was educated for: teaching, scholarship and providing sane advice on who we ought to hire, not shadowing and carping at administrators. Like Fish, the older I get the less attached I am to shared governance. In part this is because I don’t think there are many examples of faculties who have exercised it effectively and usefully, and in part, I don’t think it exists except as something we gesture towards. I prefer a clear set of regulations that are effectively and fairly enforced by objective parties who are truly interested in what is going on at the level of the department and willing to intervene when people are being screwed. I would prefer pay equity. I would prefer a union. I would also prefer, as Fish suggests, to get all the information possible, to make the preferences and reasons for those preferences known, and then to forget about it while a set of competent administrators settles the issue in a way that is fair.


If I had a dollar for every minute I have sat in faculty meetings listening to washed-up tenured deadwood fuckwads who can’t even successfully manage a research laboratory containing half a dozen scientists blither on and on and on about all the bad decisions the dean of our medical school is making and how if they were the dean everything would be totally unicorns and rainbows flying out of all of our asses, I’d be a motherfucking bajillionaire!

3 Responses to “Tenured Radical On Academic Administration”

  1. The Barefoot Bum Says:

    This is, in a microcosm, the problem of governance that socialists and communists have been struggling with for three generations.

    On the one hand, a lot of smart, competent, good people are not particularly interested in the day-to-day issues of governance. And, as you note, a lot of people who are interested are not smart, not competent and/or not good.

    The idea of an “objective” administration or government is defective (See The State and Revolution). Those in a group or class openly and transparently subject to social pressures (including political, economic and legal pressures) are not “objective parties” in the sense I think Tenured Radical intends, but any group that attempts to insulate itself from these pressures does so to privilege its own interests, often to the detriment to the interests of other groups.

    In one way or another, administrators — academic and civil — are subject one way or another to broader social pressures. The question is not whether, but which pressures and how they are subject to these pressures.

    Orwell said that (to paraphrase from memory) we can’t have socialism without better people, but we can’t have better people without socialism. I understand and share TR’s dislike of shared governance. It’s not only a pain in one’s own ass, but one has to share governance with a lot of fucktards. On the other hand, it is precisely this “I just want to do my own job and let the administrators do theirs” that leads to privileged classes; administrators (and ruling classes in general) are no more inclined to self-sacrifice uncompensated by mutual benefit than anyone else.

    Fundamentally, the notion that any person will “do the right thing” just because it’s “the right thing to do” is basically irrational. There is no matter of objective truth about what the “right thing to do” actually is, and people are not fundamentally motivated by moral beliefs. People “do the right thing” because social pressures make the “the right thing to do” in their more-or-less immediate self-interest (to avoid censure or criticism) or because powerful material pressures have over generations indoctrinated the principle into their minds.

    Fundamentally, true democratization of our social and political culture requires more than simply occasionally choosing which faction of a ruling class has titular administrative authority. It’s going to require that everyone exercise some sort of administrative authority every day, with all the inconvenience, bullshit, problems and putting up with fucktards that sort of democratization entails. That’s definitely a lot to ask, but, like TR, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

  2. I think PP and I attend the same faculty meetings.

  3. What is the deal with unicorns and ponies shitting rainbows?

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