In Praise of Administration

I’ve been Chair for ten days, and I already learned a lot. I will now never ever EVER bitch about the administration ever again. These people are amazing.

In these 10 days, I’ve been in touch with all sorts of administrators in all sorts of offices. After 11 years at this school, this is the first time I’ve heard of their existence. Friends, these people work like absolute animals. Every question, request or suggestion I have is being responded to immediately and very productively.

There are people who contact me of their own free will to say, “I heard you expressed an interest in X to the Associate Dean Y, and here’s what I can do to help.” Everything happens instantly. People constantly follow up to ask if there’s anything else they can do for me. Every wish is met like I’m the only grandchild of a bunch of elderly great-grandparents. I’ve never felt this… heard, I guess, in my life. Or at least since my great-grandparents died.

In academia, everything normally works at a glacial pace. But that’s because it’s professors who are doing things. I’m the only maniac who meets every deadline in advance and does everything on the spot, so I always suffer.

If I didn’t love research like I do, I’d totally be thinking of moving into administration. I’m very inspired by effectiveness and efficiency. And now I’m experiencing a daily orgasm of institutional effectiveness. So far (and yes, it’s only been 10 days but still) there has been not a single stupid request or time-wasting activity.

I now realize that my leisurely vegetation of the past 11 years was made possible by this crowd of individuals working like busy bees to make everything happen. I feel almost abjectly grateful to all these people.

I’m very stunned to be writing these words because I expected the exact opposite. I even meditated to prepare myself for institutional idiocy and steel myself against stupid people wasting my time. But I’m realizing that I’m actually the one who needs to pick up the pace and work faster and think more clearly.

5 thoughts on “In Praise of Administration”

  1. And now I’m experiencing a daily orgasm of institutional effectiveness.
    I’m glad you are so pleasantly surprised. I can see you making multiple linked Gantt charts and critical path network diagrams in a burst of renewed inspiration. And the best part is that no trains are involved!

    Is the makeup fridge sitting in your office or at home?


    1. “Is the makeup fridge sitting in your office or at home?”

      • You really know me well. I’ve been torn over whether to take it to the office for weeks. Especially since our building’s AC has been shot to hell. Compared to the wonderful AC in our gigantic and beautiful Engineering building, it’s hellish. The Humanities building is the worst on campus. A total dump. The walls are covered with sheeted metal from the inside. The Engineering building, though, is a wonder of design and comfort. The biology building is sensational, too. We are like the ugly stepsister on campus.


  2. “all sorts of administrators in all sorts of offices”

    Are these teaching/research staff that have moved into administration? Or are they career office staff? Or a combination of both?
    When I worked in a university bureaucracy (part time student job but for a few years) the former faculty administrators and career office staff were efficient and got everything done (despite the massively bloated and byzantine bureaucracy surrounding everything). But any time regular faculty tried to get involved in anything it was just… not pleasant, not pleasant at all….


  3. I have found the second tier administrators (Associate Deans, Associate Provosts) and the administrative staff people at my university to be excellent for the most part. They are smart, hard-working people who do everything they can to make things at the university run smoothly. The top tier administrators (Dean, Provost, President) are different, many of them seem to be careerists who only care about advancing to a higher job or a better university. People complained about our last dean being a do-nothing, but he let the Associate Deans run everything while he was running around everywhere trying to find a better job and everything ran very smoothly. We now have a dean who wants to “shake everything up” and it’s shaping up to be a disaster.


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