Wednesday, July 26, 2017

School, District, and University Administration

Much like any agency of government, I want educational administration at any level to be lean and to focus only on certain narrowly-defined tasks.  I want administration to do those tasks, only those tasks, and to do them well.  Yes, it's naive, but it's certainly not a harmful belief.

It seems that administrative bloat is not restricted to the western shores of the Atlantic, as we learn from a British university professor:
Then there’s the administration. Leaving aside the widely pilloried and Sisyphean administrative exercises known as the Research Excellence Framework and now the Teaching Excellence Framework, to put it simply we have in recent times witnessed an administrative coup in UK academia. In an article focussing on Oxford University but painting a picture that will be familiar to most academics, The Spectator wrote that the “university’s central administrative staff is now almost three times what it was 15 years ago. There was no similar increase in full-time academic staff, the people who teach students or do research…”. I won’t speculate here on the many reasons why this might be, rather I’ll merely point out that an increase in administrators—lovely and well-meaning as most of them are as individuals—naturally does not do what you might naively expect, i.e., take care of the administration so that academics can focus on academic work. No, instead it breeds ever more complex administrative mazes that are not just difficult to navigate but are de facto becoming the main part of the job. Kafkaesque would not be pushing it too far by any means.
I'm reminded of the discovery of the element Administratium:

The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major US research university.  The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0.  However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons.  It is also surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert.  However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with.  According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete what would normally have occurred in less than a second. 

Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons, vice neutrons and assistant vice neutrons exchange places.  In fact, an administratium sample's mass actually INCREASES over time, since with each reorganization some of the morons inevitably become neutrons, forming new isotopes.  This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to speculate that perhaps administratium is spontaneously formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration.  This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass".

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