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I've worked at a half dozen institutions. Practically all had these problems. The root issue is administration. Some (e.g. Deans) are recruited from faculty. But most are career administrators or former business people. Faculty are weird. They must be controlled. Managed. Ethically questionable behavior is par for the course. The key is to be able to cover it up. When faculty complain, administrators either ignore or retaliate. Get used to it or get out. This is the business model in higher education at work. If you want better, you should have been alive when Black Mountain College (now defunct, not outing this institution) was in existence. The institution had no career administrators. Administration was run by faculty. Horribly inefficient. But faculty were treated as colleagues, not as replaceable cogs in the machine.


Dear Frustrated,
My experience is so different from yours. I have worked at half a dozen places, and been a visitor at a few as well. I have not had this experience with administrators (I might just be a very lucky person!). My experience is that most of the carping about the administrators come from people who are not doing their job any way. They might have stopped researching a decade ago, or they treat their job as a part time job, given that they have tenure and they cannot be made to serve on any committee (they forget that 'shared governance' involves doing some of the work!).


I share these feelings of frustration with my institution, but for slightly different reasons. My institution is a small one, and demands on faculty time--particularly junior faculty--are overwhelming and unreasonable. The amount of service expected is significantly higher than what I have seen from colleagues with jobs at larger universities, and although one may be penalized in the tenure/promotion process for failing to live up to those expectations, meeting them is not rewarded at all (with the exception of being asked to serve on more committees). Research, likewise, is expected but not supported or celebrated. End of year performance evaluations always find something negative to say (even reaching to intangibles like one's attitude), apparently because the administration believes that this keeps people motivated. I have fantasized many times about leaving the institution, in part because it is so often misery-inducing, in part because I am just tired, and in part to "spite them," as the original commenter suggests.

At the same time, the job pays decently--the institution is pretty well-off, certainly more so than most state institutions--I am in a fairly desirable location, and I have a partner who is also an academic, and who also has a job here. So I have tried to move, but not very hard; I restrict my applications each year to positions in particular locales, and with smaller teaching loads. I have not been successful, though I've had interviews.

Before I came here, I worked at other places as a VAP. Some of those places seemed better, and some seemed objectively worse. But I have always wondered if the places that seemed better did so because my visiting position kept me cut off from certain facts about the institution. So I guess I share the original commenter's worry about whether every place is like this.

Sara L. Uckelman

I think it might be helpful to know what level of admin are we talking about -- departmental admin/managers, or higher up in the faculty?

Good admin at the departmental level can certainly make or break you at a new job. I have been so, so lucky to have worked with phenomenal and fantastic departmental admin at every place I've been.

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