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04/08/2014

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philgrad

Hi Marcus,

I think your suggestion that philosophers should be vocal about administrative functions in the university is absolutely right. I think it is also important to have specific suggestions about what the university should be doing differently; one hears a lot of vague complaining about administrative bloat that never really amounts to much.

However, I'm somewhat baffled that you're targeting writing centers. I'm not sure what the situation is at your university, but at many universities, writing centers are staffed by either upperclassmen, graduate students in English, or people who are payed essential adjunct salaries. These positions aren't exactly highly paid.

You're not the first philosopher I've heard complain about writing centers not providing the right kind of assistance with philosophy papers. I honestly think the more productive tactic would be to try to get tutors in the writing centers, who have training in philosophy, rather than to complain about the existence of writing centers. There's no reason why English/composition + rhetoric people should have a monopoly on writing programs at universities, so philosophers should step up and get involved in such programs.

I won't say too much in defense of writing centers, but I've found them extremely valuable in my experience. They often provide the kind of detailed and careful assistance that many professors are not willing to provide but many students need (based on your own posts about teaching, I suspect you are an exception to this generalization!).

Michel X.

I'm a little skeptical of the "administrative bloat" argument(s) for much the same reasons I'm skeptical of the "government gravy train" arguments. While I don't disagree that a-bloat exists (nor that gravy does), I might well disagree (as I do in the political case) with what gets counted as "bloat," as well as with the idea that getting rid of the bloat would solve all (or even some significant portion) of our fiscal woes in the first place.

Now, I don't mean to stuff you full of straw. I expect that you don't mean to say that getting rid of a-bloat will solve all (or most) of our problems, but rather that it's part of a (the) solution. But actually, I'm not convinced that removing a-bloat (assuming we agree on what that is) will get rid of our crisis anyway.

Yes, the university will have more money to throw around. But where? It might get spread thinly across all disciplines, to be sure. Or it may well be concentrated in STEM fields (the more likely outcome, I think). No matter what, though, we're still left having to make the case that we, as a department, deserve one more (or two, or however many) hire(s). And from the little I've seen, I'm not convinced we're any good at doing that in the first place. And, of course, if we were, we'd probably get shafted a little less to begin with.

I suspect our problems as a discipline are at some level structural (and that probably goes for the other humanities too). I suspect that most philosophy departments aren't communicating particularly well with their administrative overlords, and that seems like a rather big problem to me--to say nothing of demonstrating our value to society at large.

Elisa Freschi

Perhaps a counter-perspective might be interesting: As far as I know, no expansion of the administrative staff ever happened in continental Europe (in my institute, we have around 25 researchers and 1 administrative staff). Dean, responsible of the safety on the building, responsible of the ERASMUS program and so on are all professors/lecturers/researchers who do it on a part time basis. The result has possibly the advantages you name, but also the main disadvantage of having to waste your time with things you don't like.... and invoking a secretary who could them for you (why should a full-professor use her time to counter-check the number of journals bought or sold by a certain institute instead of being free to do research?)

Jaded

There is a lot of bloat at some places. But it's part of an overall trend toward concentrating more power in the administration and reducing meaningful faculty governance. So it's not very clear faculty opposition will be effective in reducing it. Nor is it clear that, say, Law School faculty, Philosophy professors and adjuncts have enough common interested to present a unified front, without which ....

Although I think an above poster underestimates administrative bloat, there really is much pure waste of money, they are quite right that cutting it won't save as much as you might think and that if some were cut it probably wouldn't be rechanneled in any useful direction. I've seen far more cases where money was reassigned in what were useful directions than when it wasn't.

Jaded

Sorry, far fewer... It flowoften form bad to worse, depending on the President's or Regents' favorite project that month. Look at how much Rutgers spends on its athletic programs, for example.

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