Want to be notified when a new article is posted? Entere your email here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Are You An Administration Courtesan?

Inside Higher Ed recently had a very interesting piece on being an "administrative courtesan":
It'’s not in the job description. Few of your colleagues will mentor you in this line of work. It is the by-path on the road to tenure that no one wants to talk about - — providing certain benefits to The Administration that it passionately desires and can only obtain from a young, fresh, junior member of the faculty such as yourself. We do not wish to be misunderstood; despite some less-than-flattering appellations by which we might be known, we are proposing nothing illegal, or even unethical. If you follow our advice, you will not hate yourself in the morning. But you might get tenure.

Most of the time junior professors don'’t seem to get noticed by The Administration , but when your moment comes, you must know what The Administration wants. It is a fickle Leviathan of great appetites that will devour you if you do not approach it carefully. Above all, it serves the god Mammon. The reliable sources of its satisfaction are twofold: parents and donors.
Read the whole thing here.

The article makes a simple point - keeping the people in the Administration happy and helping them accomplish their goals is a good way to help yourself to tenure.

And what's their main goal? When you're at a research school, the focus is on donors, and when you're at a teaching one, you need to keep parents happy. But, the principle is the same. The important thing on the administration's mind is (big surprise here):

Getting money out of alumni and keeping parents happy (so they might give money too).

Unfortunately, academics often look at fundraising as something that's either beneath (or, they look at it as "selling out"). I think part of this attitude is due to the fact that many (if not most) of my tribe are less than extremely interpersonally gifted. Some are, but they are the exception, and I'm not sure they're all that trusted by their peers. By nature, we're not at our best in the public eye, and most of us are not exactly born schmoozers (I'm lucky that way, since my father was a salesman, and so is my brother).

However, being able to "talk the talk" with alumni (or parents) makes the administrative fund raisers' job much easier.

Getting tenure involves publishing enough research and teaching well enough that you meet whatever standards there are at your university. But just as important, you have to have the people who vote on your tenure on your side. First of all, that means being a good enough colleague that the senior faculty in your department and school will feel comfortable having you around for a long time (once you're tenured, they're stuck with you).

Even more important, you have to have the administration on your side. And being an "administrative courtesan" is one way to do it.

I've never said that I can't be bought. I just try to keep the price high enough to keep out the window shoppers.

No comments: