In my ideal system, literally no university would ever do an outside search for dean or provost, ever, and there would be a minimum time served requirement before any new faculty hires could do administrative tasks. This would ensure that all administrators are absolutely tied to the future of their current institution and would be anticipating rejoining the regular faculty in the future. If they screwed over their colleagues, they would have to live among them as a peer for decades to come.
Adam has a post building on my mismanagement post from yesterday arguing for maximally strong faculty governance as the solution to the administrative class’s production of permanent crisis. I agree wholeheartedly. The class of transient, careeriest administrators has brought waste, looting, and an irresponsible boom-bust cycle to higher education everywhere they have taken hold, regardless of how nice or good any individual administrator is. Hence my satirical, wildly unpopular proposal for reverse tenure for admin: they only get to leave with faculty approval, otherwise they have to stay and deal with the fallout from whatever short-sighted stat-juking they instituted while they were polishing their CV.
But Adam’s proposal is what I would actually implement systemwide if I could snap my fingers and just do it: limited admin terms for tenured faculty, constitutionally behold to faculty senates, would produce a class of administrators invested in the institution’s long-term health rather than its very-short-term movements and manipulations, without producing pocket fiefdoms or another class of unaccountable gods to contend with down the road. As Adam says:
This system would also presumably inculcate broader loyalty to academia as such, pushing against the destruction of the teaching profession via adjunctification, etc., etc. But even if it didn’t have such wide-ranging effects, it would at least keep administrators from actively destroying their own institutions, simply out of self-interest.
Check out his whole post.
* In case you missed it yesterday: “Universities, Mismanagement, and Permanent Crisis.”
* Igbinedion’s production company Igodo Films recently shared Oya: Rise of The Orishas in full online. They also revealed that the Oya project has been adapted for the silver screen with principal photography on the feature-length film version scheduled to begin later this year in Brazil. The London-based filmmaker shared in a recentinterview that he made the short film in order to prove that there is a market for sci-fi films revolving around African characters and storylines. In this regard, Oya joins Ethiopian post-apocalyptic flick Crumbs in forging a path for future film projects from the continent within the realm of speculative fiction. In addition to the full-length project, Oya‘s creators have also confirmed plans for a comic book adaptation of the film, which is currently available for pre-order.
* Neil Gaiman reviews Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Sounds bizarre and great.
* Study: Killers are less likely to be executed if their victims are black. What could explain it?
* It’s important that the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots succeed, either at achieving an outright ban or at sparking debate resulting in some other sensible and effective regulation. This is vital not just to prevent fully autonomous weapons from causing harm; an effective movement will also show us how to proactively ban other future military technology.
* Thousands of oil refinery workers are striking for safer working conditions. Their fight is central to the struggle against climate change.
* Choose Your Own Adventure: So You’ve Accidentally Gotten Pregnant in South Dakota.
Some loose, probably incautious thoughts, adapted from a couple of Twitter
rants essays I’ve been writing the last few days.
A multi-generation, multimillion-dollar institution (like a college) that has to administrate by emergency decree has in nearly every case been grotesquely failed by its leadership. And in the US today that describes nearly every college and university, in management rhetorics and policies dating back at least to the mid-2000s (when I first entered the profession as a graduate student).
If your college faced drastic emergency cuts after 2008, it was mismanaged. You expanded on an unsustainable basis, made the wrong commitments, spent too much.
If your college faces drastic emergency cuts now because enrollments will tick (slightly) downward in the 2010s, it was mismanaged. You had 18 years warning that this demographic wave was going to hit, 18 years to plan for what to do when it did.
As every college administration invokes generalized, free-flowing “emergency” as its justification for arbitrary policy after arbitrary policy — all of which need to be implemented now, en toto and without debate, even the ones that contradict the other ones — they are arguing that their management up to now has been so wildly and irredeemably poor that the university has been thrown into total system crisis. And yet the solution to the emergency is, inevitably, always more (and more draconian) administrative control, always centralized under the very same people who took us over the cliff in the first place!
Nor is there ever any accountability, or so much as an explanation, for how the crisis was ever allowed to happen in the first place. (Very often, of course, the guilty parties have already fled the state.)
Eternal organizations designed to last forever simply should not have to implement policy on a crisis basis — much less be forced to implement every policy in this way. Colleges and universities should have been managed so carefully up to now so that they can afford to phase in new policy changes over time, running experiments and pilot programs where necessary to ensure success. That’s what neoliberal shibboleths like “nimble” and “flexible” would actually mean in a world of rational management — graceful, deliberate movements, not wild lurching and uncontrolled crash-landing.
Careful management, good management, is the full and sole justification for the administration class that has bloated so entirely over the college landscape since the 1980s (and whose growth is still accelerating, even in the face of permanent cuts everywhere else). Simply put the promise of the management class was that they could manage colleges better than faculty. Even by their own estimation they have completely failed at this task on every possible level. Thirty years of running it like a sandwich has every college in the country living admission cycle to admission cycle, cutting budgets and services and wages every year, careening from supposed emergency to supposed emergency without any stabilization or improvement.
Even bracketing endowments and donations altogether, generally speaking colleges have a built-in client base, already own all the land and buildings, can borrow freely, and don’t pay taxes. I could devise a harder test of management acumen. So it seems to me the approximately 100% of college administrations that are now claiming emergency and desperation year after year need to cop either to their own incompetence, or else their dishonesty, or else their active malice.
Canavan’s Razor would tell us that permanent crisis is a management strategy, the unacknowledged goal of every plan. But whichever precise combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and malice best describes a particular university administration is irrelevant. The management class simply has no reason to exist at all if their interventions in the university produce not stability but crisis, after crisis, after crisis, after crisis, after crisis…