Academic Administration

December 18, 2010

One major issue with administration in academia is that there is absolutely no training or scholarly approach to developing expertise in academic administration. The vast majority of academic administrators end up there because by sheer dumb fucken lucke, they happen to be decent at it (or not). In the world of business, management is an entire area of scholarly inquiry and practical engineering that is viewed as central to business success. In academia it is looked upon as a necessary evil (or even, by many self-absorbed delusional faculty, as an unnecessary evil).

If academics don’t embrace management theory and practice to the same extent that business people do, then the trend of hiring corporate d00ds who aren’t academics to manage academic institutions is going to accelerate. To the extent that academics don’t like this trend, they need to sacke the fucke uppe and adopt a scholarly and practical approach to academic managment.

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7 Responses to “Academic Administration”

  1. skeptifem Says:

    Corporate management is the antithesis to academic work. Corporate managements tenants are about eliminating critical thinking and making workers interchangeable. Adopting those things would fuck up work that involves thought and humanity.

    Haven’t academics been processed by management systems enough to not need it? Seems to me like you can’t get that far without some serious indoctrination. People who don’t get it are weeded out.


  2. Academic institutions are much too large and complex to function without management systems. The only question is whether those systems are going to be rationally designed and administered. Academics should apply scholarly approaches to the analysis and design of their management systems in the same way that business people have do with theirs. This doesn’t mean that the outcomes will be the same in academia and corporations.

    Regardless, you are wrong about corporate management being about “eliminating critical thinking and making workers interchangeable”. This may be true in relation to taks that do not require critical thinking or creativity, but effective corporate management of knowledge workers absolutely acknowledges the need for critical thinking and creativity at every level of the management hierarchy.

  3. Katharine Says:

    CPP, give us some examples of what good practices might look like in this area.

    When I think of ‘management’, and probably when a lot of other people in science do, I think precisely of this almost cultishly-structured, corporate-language-laden, sort of practice which is hierarchical and antithetical to critical thinking, freedom of thought, and rationality. Looking at what’s come out of some bigger companies and even some smaller ones – look at the Geek Squad manual on Scribd if you can find it, it’s laden with cargo-culty bullshit that tries to ape the CIA and virtually every person who comes out of that thing says there are very few actual competent people at that company and they even outsource their work.

    My father does some project-managementy stuff for the federal government and even he acknowledges that most of it is bullshit. Some of it is apparently quite important. But most of it is bullshit.

  4. lylebot Says:

    PhD engineers and scientists in the research divisions of tech companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM, HP, etc have managers (of course). And those managers also have PhDs. It’s PhDs all the way up to CTO or maybe just below.

    Whatever management style they’re using, it’s definitely not about eliminating critical thinking or making their workers interchangeable.

  5. Pascale Says:

    When I got interested in administrative work in academia, I got trained. There is a science behind getting groups to work together toward common goals, and it is almost as interesting as my science.

    In the past, administrative types arose from large, successful laboratories or clinical programs. Having to herd cats in a big lab or department and manage the accompanying budgets isn’t a horrible way to figure out folks with natural leadership chops, but it doesn’t always translate to the next level of administration.

  6. sciliz Says:

    I’m 85% sure that if CPP is proposing that academics be managed like the employees at Google any and all anti-corporate management grumblings would undetectable below background noise faculty grumblings (about such important issues as campus parking). Now, where is my bouncy ball and on-site gourmet cafeteria?!!!

    OTOH, if CPP wants universities (not for-profit elite medical centers, but the actual university side) to take lessons from Walmart, then of course things are gonna get ugly. “the world of business” is so non-specific as to be meaningless.

  7. Tigs Says:

    I’ve been adding lines to the cv by doing things over here lately:
    http://www.odl.rutgers.edu/pldi/index.html

    The number one piece of advice we get is to concentrate of being really productive researchers so that we get tenure and then faculty will respect and maybe listen to us…


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