Day One: Don Quixote in Academia

Well, theoretically, I began my new administrative job today, but, being Jan 1 and the college being closed, I’ve had little to do with the job-life, save for a few emails regarding new carpet installation.

Woohoo, man.

Usually,I identify with Candide and his learning curves–absolute idealism to pessimism to balance. Most days, I find myself hanging out in idealism, and that is, quite seriously, why I found myself teaching in a community college. A fine place to advocate for change. Today, I’m feeling a bit more like Don Quixote, as I am presented with problems that appear DESPERATELY IMPORTANT, but are often incidental to the more significant issues or not really problems at all. But, I tend to have to play as if, “yes, yes, that is a big scary monster,” even when I see the windmill clearly, lest I belittle the fears of the person I am talking to. Sometimes, I think it is a big, scary monster too, until I have a chance to step back from the speaker’s fear and see the picture more clearly.

Consequently, I find myself tilting at windmills frequently, and I think that is probably what I am meant to do. Sometimes there are dragons in those windmills, you know? And sometimes, people just need the damn monsters slain, whether they are windmills or dragons or carpet fumes.

I’ve been an administrator since 2007; this job represents a step up the rung–and the title certainly doesn’t suck. But, one little thing has been bothering me for a while, and all the more as recently the transition begin…for a system that prides itself in talking about eliminating false hierarchy, we surely on them. The walls that divide staff, faculty, and administrator are, of course, entirely fabricated, often by imagined power and, more frequently, elitism. We are all there in support of education; we merely have different roles in that support structure. So, sometimes Plant Ops directs how and when changes will occur; sometimes Academic Affairs takes leadership, and often Student Affairs leads our way, but always, we work in service to education.

So, what does this mean in practice? All too often, I hear my fellow faculty demeaning the role of administration or of staff; I’ve heard time and again that we are becoming a “staff-run” school (I need to find out what the fear that drives this remark is, precisely) and that Plant Ops, for instance shouldn’t dictate scheduling for moving, painting, etc. (who else is going to, as they are charged with doing the work??). And, in truth, none of the decisions faculty are discussing in these remarks were made without conversation among each of the constituents and/or their representatives.

But, if you are one of the folks who are not the representatives, it may not feel like your thoughts were heard or considered.

I’m wondering if keeping an Academic blog would be useful–one that conveyed current conversations and offered a place for opinions to be voiced; I am not a fan of anonymous comments (we academics can be such a vicious lot), but I also understand the fear of retribution. I don’t think such retribution will occur in our particular climate, but we are undergoing a fair amount of change. I’d like to see those divides drop, especially ones fueled by anything smacking of elitism.

So, I guess I’m still trying to save the world; I’m just starting in a microcosm of my campus. First grocery parking lots, now…THE WORLD!

Or something like that. Point me toward the windmills, er, monsters…tilting I must go!

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