Bickford and Whisnant, both of whom are administrators and adjunct faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, begin by noting that more and more humanities Ph.D.s are assuming a wide variety of full-time administrative roles in the academy while continuing to research, write, public speak, teach and publish on the side. The significant academic efforts of these mostly female "administrator-scholars," however, remain largely unrecognized and unrewarded by academe. What Bickford and Whisnant would like to see is the creation of a formal system designed to recognize and promote the unique contributions of administrators with Ph.D.s., particularly those who remain active in their respective fields of expertise.
"We've presented a proposal [at UNC] to design a system of options and policies that would better support and recognize the contributions of nonfaculty administrators with Ph.D.'s who occupy an often awkward in-between space in the academic hierarchy. Already in academe, people are talking about alternate academic careers for Ph.D.'s. But the promise of those careers won't be fulfilled without systemic change. Universities must create formal structures to assist our growing cohort in pursuing scholarly research and teaching while continuing to develop administrative skills and talents," they argue.
I think this is a fabulous idea, and one which might make academic administration much more desirable as an alternate career for talented Ph.D.s interested in the non-teaching aspects of academe. But the slew of comments following the article are reflective of the continuing, stereotypical bifurcation of the academy into administrator/supportive-drone types versus faculty/knowledge-disseminators.
"The mission of the academy is to discover and disseminate knowledge. Everything else is support. The faculty complete the mission and the staff (administrators) provide the support. This piece sounds like a backdoor into the mission end of the academy," argues one critic. But wait, responds another, your attitude simply "perpetuates a class-based version of academia where the faculty are the elite, and the staff are their servants." Yet another critic calls foul on both the aims of the article and the assumption that administrators can, and should, assume more faculty-esque smart-people tasks: "It has nothing to do with being a servant or being elite. The university has certain tasks that need to be done. You were hired to do those important tasks. If you are busy doing the work of a faculty member, than who will be doing the administrative work? Will we have to hire yet another administrator-scholar to do the work for which you were hired?" Certain tasks are reserved for certain folks; end of story.
Apparently you cannot work in a "support" role at a university and simultaneously engage in, and be rewarded for completing, some of the tasks of a faculty member, otherwise there will be no one around doing your critical admin role, whatever that may be. Holding down the fort, answering phones, filing paperwork, typing, talking to students. You know, supporting stuff. To use a sports analogy, faculty members are like the boxers, who go out, take a beating in the ring and capture the crowd's attention; administrators are like the lackeys on the sidelines, squirting water in the boxers' mouths, wiping them down, smacking them on the ass, providing moral and sometimes physical support. The administrator-lackeys might dream about being in the ring, beating someone to a pulp, reveling in a bit of glory, but who, then, would clean their mouth guard or rub their muscles after the fight? No one, thats who.
|Don't mess with me; I've got a mission.|
Administration and faculty, never the twain shall meet.
(At least not in the ring.)