Sunday, April 01, 2012


Thoughts on a Day of Higher Ed

My IHE blogger colleague Lee Bessette has tagged April 2 as a “day of higher ed,” complete with twitter hashtag #dayofhighered.  The idea is to share with the general public just what it is, exactly, that those of us in higher ed do all day.  

It’s a neat idea.  Last week’s Washington Post column about how underworked professors are certainly invited a fact-based rebuttal, and the idea of generating a slew of first-person responses has a certain appeal.  

That said, though, there are limits to what I can share about my day.  Too much of it involves dealing with sensitive topics -- personnel issues, emerging grant applications, that sort of thing -- or issues that sort of bubble under the surface for a while, any one of which could erupt on any given day.  I can share that at this point, I have four meetings scheduled for a total of five and a half hours -- pretty normal for a Monday -- and will spend a good chunk of the rest of the time preparing for some job interviews I’m conducting later this week.  I will also tend to a few simmering issues that require attention soon, though some of them may slip into Tuesday.  And of course, the unknown unknowns -- usually couched in the form of “got a minute?” --  are always out there.

Then there’s the family stuff.  Up at 5 to work out before work.  Later, Mondays bring the kids’ music lessons, and The Girl’s softball practices have started.  Homework, the bedtime shuffle, blogging.  And that book deadline is looming ever larger...

In my faculty days, I occasionally wondered just what it was that administrators did all day.  (I say “occasionally” because I didn’t usually give it much thought.)  I’ve tried conveying some of it through the blog, but some of it is just too sensitive or context-specific to be bloggable.  Transparency is great, but discretion and even confidentiality have their place, too.  

I’ll be reading other folks entries on higher ed day with interest, not least because the world of a community college and the world of, say, a research university are so very different.  But also because it strikes me that the next step would be looking at ways to change what we do for the better.  

If enough people participate, we’d have the raw material to do some serious reflection.  

Ultimately, the winning response to the nagging cultural suspicion about academics not working hard enough isn’t “do, too!”  It’s winning over the culture with a display of value that counts in terms that most people find understandable and important.  If the kind of testimony offered during higher ed day helps spur that discussion internally so that we can make a better case for ourselves externally, then it’s all good.

So readers, have at it.  If you’re on twitter, I’ll see you there.  If not, pick the venue that works for you.  But if you’re in higher ed, just what do you do all day?

I'm sort of wondering how a faculty member who is teaching is supposed to Tweet. Maybe it's just me, but when I have class and lab, it's for four hours, so it's not like anyone would be getting lots of updates from me. I understand the premise of this, but I almost feel that if someone has a lot of time to be going online and Tweeting, in a way it's going counter to what this intends to prove (folks who are super busy don't have time to be going on to the Internet every hour or two). Unless you can just leave your Twitter account open and add a line or two every so often? I'm not familiar with the set-up of Twitter.
This is my venue because I haven't gone over the the dark side that is Twitter. For my FT job, I am a mid-level administrator for a basketful of "satellite campuses". Some we just teach at, some we lease space. Etc.

Today, I'm on desk duty because one of my FT staff resigned with no notice and another had scheduled vacation that I'm not about to decline. I'll also set up email blasts for my department today for students across the country. Then I'll hopefully get in some reading for an RFP committee. After that, if I'm lucky, I'll work on annual evaluations. (And I still need to run to the mall at lunch and get a pair of shoes to match my Easter dress.)
TERM PAPERS? You're advertising the selling of term papers here? Just when you thought....
Sorry -- deleted the comment spam. Death to comment spammers!
What is fascinating to me is that so many people assume the worst about entire groups of others. We hear the lazy/waste of money/underworked argument all the time. Higher education. K-12 education. Highway construction crews. City workers. Administrative structures in any industry. The list goes on.

At my college we are working on "assuming positive intent." Basically, make it a point to assume the other person/people are needed, doing what they are supposed to be doing, working hard and really want to do what is best (for the student, client, organization, etc.). It is amazing how different your attitude and approach are when you intentionally assume positive intent.

My husband works in construction as a project manager. I'm sure it would be easy for the guys on the site to wonder what he does all day in the office. I also know that he is busy 45+ hours a week and that I wouldn't have his job for any amount of money. And he knows he wouldn't want mine. We do very different things in very different ways - and both are very needed and important to the respective organizations.

I'm not as worried about telling people what I do all day in higher ed as I am in helping them understand every job has its advantages and disadvantages. And I would love to help them understand that supporting one another will get us all a lot farther than beating up on each other.
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