It's fair -- if not a bit of an understatement -- to say that my university is in transition. Budget woes of our own making have been compounded by revenue shortfalls statewide that have resulted in mid-year reductions in current budgets. An academic culture created by the previous administration is being replaced wholesale, and morale as well as expectations are in flux throughout the institution.
Nothing is certain in such an environment. I'm thankful for tenure, and I'm pretty sure my unit isn't going to vanish or my job be taken away. But what could happen is that the administrative part of my job could disappear. Anyone who's got extra time and duties layered on top of their base faculty position could find themselves back in a regular faculty position at any time, either through replacement in that position or through its elimination.
I thought hard today, for the first time in a while, about what would happen if I were no longer an administrator. And for the first time ever, maybe, I discovered that I really didn't like the idea. I got into administration because I loved being a part of making things happen, and I loved seeing how things tick. Certainly there are downsides to it -- less direct contact with students, becoming a lightning rod for criticism, thankless attention to trivia.
But when I thought about going back to having responsibility primarily for my classes and having more time for my own research projects, I found -- somewhat to my surprise -- that I didn't like the idea. In fact, if I spun out the hypothetical, I thought that I'd probably end up searching for other administrative jobs rather than stay put in a different capacity.
Now I have no desire to search for another job. Quite the opposite; I'm quite attached to staying put. And I have no reason to think that the administrative part of my job is in question or jeopardy. But it shocks me somewhat to find that I identify myself as an administrator rather than as a faculty member or scholar. I have to be grateful for that clarity. Knowing what you want now -- rather than what you envisioned for yourself ten years ago -- is important. Even if I never have to act on that knowledge, it's a sea change in my self-image. And I'm thankful to the crisis for helping me understand who I am in 2009.