Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Being an administrator means facing the reality that not all good things can be simultaneously accomplished.  Almost every improvement somebody proposes involves a cost elsewhere.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the always-contentious realms of time and power.  In order to exercise control over a process, or have input into it, or manage it in a hands-on manner, you have to give up some of your time -- by going to meetings, reviewing documents, doing interviews, etc.

Sometimes a process will be criticized for not allowing enough people to have input, or for being controlled by the few.  The only solution to that criticism is to widen the scope of input and control.  But that means asking the critics to devote time and effort to the process, in amounts comparable to those that the few were previously investing.  And the things a faculty member tends to guard most closely are his time and autonomy.  Becoming a part of a larger process means having less of both.  It's the price one pays for gaining power over the process.

So people who are asking for more of a say need to be prepared to give up something else they value to get it.  It's a trade-off.  And there's no right answer.  What you choose depends on how much you value each side, and which you want to prioritize.  It's up to you to decide if the cure is worse than the disease -- if more work on behalf of the group and less on your own projects is worth it for the change you want to see happen.

And at that point, an administrator's job is to present you with the choice, not to make it for you.  An administrator's job is to make sure everyone knows what the administrator sees every day: Every yes contains a corresponding no.

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