Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Death of Universities

There are two kinds of people in universities.

1. People whose idea of work is going to meetings.

2. People whose idea of work is what we do BETWEEN meetings. You know, stuff like thinking, reading books and articles, writing new research.

Here's the problem: American universities are being absolutely taken over by by people of type 1. As a department chair, I can protect my faculty against some of this, but only some.

Whole floors of academic buildings are being converted from faculty office space (ie, place where work is actively done) to administrative office space (ie, places where work is actively prevented).

I have to deal with faculty, and graduate students, every day who can't believe the ridiculous, counterproductive, and petty edicts from above. They assume that I am the source.

The problem is not top level administrators, who (at Duke, at least right now) are the best I have ever seen. The problem is mid-level administrators who, knowing nothing about research, decide it is a "product" that needs to be managed and measured. And of course, we need to meet about it, a lot. Because that is what work is.

I can always just lay low. But what will happen to the new generation? A lot of the time faculty spend doing "nothing" is the most productive time they spend.


Anonymous said...


You need another 10 days of R&R. This time bring Mosca/Michels to read on the plane. The midlevels need to justify their existence somehow, what better way than controlling the space and product of an organization?

Best of luck,

Anonymous said...

you said it mike! Say it LOUDER!!! The problem is these mid-level Assistant Deans of nothing reproduce faster than the amoeba.


Anonymous said...

Hacking out the middle management would decrease tuition costs, right? I would, ah, really appreciate that.

-James Smyth

Dr. Tufte said...

Can we take out the accrediting bodies too while we're at it?

We are being "required" by NACS (northwest ...) to maintain a binder for every class justifying how we satisfy every one of the departmental, college, and university learning objectives appropriate to that class.

Even the committee types in my college screamed bloody murder at that one ... but it is still going through; ninety-two binders, about four per faculty member, in a college that graduates about 200 majors per year.

Anonymous said...

Industry isn't any better. Progress meetings create progress, right? The wise crack that someday we need to have a meeting to determine why we have so many meetings was actually taken seriously.