Wednesday, August 26, 2015

After Crossing Over

Inside Higher Ed
August 25th, 2015


The "Administrators Are People Too" piece in IHE was quite good on its own terms, but I was struck at how quickly the comments inadvertently confirmed its thesis. There's a level of self-righteous vituperation out there that goes far beyond anything that could be explained by the doings of any one provost or dean. It comes from something much deeper. And for newbies who cross over from faculty, the depth and persistence of that vituperation can be disorienting.
Having crossed that divide myself, and having worked with others who have, a few thoughts to offer newbies.
First, understand that "the administration" is a synecdoche for all external forces, or for anything that compels a professor to do something she'd rather not do. The state cuts funding and enrollment drops, so the college loses revenue; that's largely invisible to many faculty. But you put a cap on travel, and you're the bad guy. That may have been the best move available to you, but many folks won't see the options you had to choose from; they'll only see the one you chose. "But I made the least-bad choice!" may be true, but many won't care. Social psychologists call that the "fundamental attribution error:" we attribute actions to personal characteristics, rather than to the options available at the time.

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