Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Administrative Mind: Why Do University Administrators Hate Faculty?

What a post! The world owes Cyrus R. K. Patell a huge debt for providing his readers such insight into the administrative mind in “Who’s Confused?”  Everyone concerned with higher education ought to read it and post it as widely as possible.  I have linked it here: And I have reactivated my Facebook account just to post a link to it as well.  Patell’sblog post is a great follow up to the confusing NY Times article on NYU at
You might think that the role of the university is to produce informed citizens who will participate in our liberal democracy.  You might think that faculty, the people who do research and actually teach students the intellectual and technical latest developments in their chosen majors, would be at the center of the university.  You might think that the role of university administrators would be to support faculty.  Think again!  An administrator himself, Associate Dean Cyrus R. K. Patell has certainly disabused us of any such naïve notions in his column.   Patell is not at all confusing.  Faculty, he says, are not citizens in a university.  Why?  Because the university is not a democracy.  But not to worry!  For democracy isn’t a good thing either, according to Patell.  Why can’t Obama just dictate?  Forget about that circuit court decision ruling that Obamas recess appointments were unconstitutional. Forget about the Republicans in the 111th and 112th U.S Congress being the most obstructionist in the history of the United States.  No, “debate” in Congress is just   a waste of time.  Too bad we aren't living in Abu dabi, I guess.  Well, at least we can take solace in the fact that  the university is an authoritarian, top down structure.  And academic freedom?  How dumb to think faculty should have it!  Cyrus Patell knows it so stupid that it isn’t even worth mentioning.  Why would any administrator write such a candid and revealing a blog post like Patell’s?  Apparently, he just can’t stop himself.  Citing with great approval a passage written by Stanley Fish, reveals with almost blinding clarity the absolute contempt in which university administrators hold faculty.  Here it is:
At the end of my tenure as dean, I spoke to some administrators who had been on the job for a short enough time to be able to still remember what it was like to be a faculty member and what thoughts they had then about the work they did now. One said that she had come to realize how narcissistic academics are: an academic, she mused, is focused entirely on the intellectual stock market and watches its rises and falls with an anxious and self-regarding eye.  As an academic, you’re trying to get ahead; as an administrator, you’re trying “to make things happen for other people”; you’re “not advancing your own profile but advancing the institution, and you’re more service oriented.”
Ah, yes, the days when I was just another narcissistic faculty member, the days before I became an Associate Dean and could “make things happen for other people,” those “other people” who in the administrative mind obviously do not include faculty who work in a system which evaluates them as individual persons, not as members of a collective.  No, “advancing the institution,” means working to help administrators, or in the case of NYU, helping them leave NYU with huge retirement packages, packages so huge that the NY Times even ran a story about it. The NY Times interview Patell spends his blog attacking is a follow up. You might very well think that Patell is a time-server, a lackey, a sycophant, a failed academic who didn’t publish enough to be promoted to full professor, a courtier who, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, makes love to his employment.  You might very well think that.  Patell  should be congratulated for showing us the contempt in which self-servicing university administrators so richly deserve to be held.
By the way, my grandfather went to Harvard, like Patell.  Some years ago, I scanned and posted on FB the letter admitting him and his twin brother that the then Dean of Harvard, no doubt “revered,” wrote to my great-grandmother.   Also, regarding the Puritans Patell mentions: My mother is a direct descendant of Governor Winslow. 

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