THE Scholarly Web

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

November 22, 2012

"Who is this 'Admin' you speak of?" asks a post on the University of Venus blog (, which investigates the attitude of academics towards those who pursue administrative careers in universities when the research position of their dreams eludes them.

Written by Liana Silva, who provides writing support to graduate students in the University of Kansas system, and Brenda Bethman, director of the Women's Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the post looks to dispel a few myths about alternative career paths - such as the idea that administrative staff and research and teaching faculty "are on opposite sides of the academic table".

"Many faculty seem to think that anyone who's not faculty is an administrator," the blog claims. "In reality, between the two ends... are a lot of other jobs that provide services to faculty and students. Unfortunately, when conversations about funding in higher ed turn to the financial 'bloat' that administrators add, many of these student services get lumped in."

The bloggers ask if faculty members would be happy to take on some of the roles carried out by "administrators". "Are they willing to fill out orders of protection? Interview young women who've been raped, stalked, and sexually assaulted or harassed? If we want to support and retain students who have survived sexual violence, someone has to do this work. If not trained staff, then who? This detail often gets lost in the conversation about bloat."

Many academic staff also believe administrators to be "evil", the post continues, stating that although there are some bad administrators who are "self-serving and only out for themselves and don't care about the institutional good", the same can be said of many academic staff, too.

"There are faculty who don't care about students, and there are staff who genuinely try to make the lives of students better... and who get their funding slashed every day."

The next "myth" the authors address is that administrators do not engage in research. "Plenty of alternative academic folks continue to publish, attend conferences, and conduct research," the blog asserts. "Although faculty may receive more support for their research endeavors, many staff continue to challenge themselves intellectually through research."

Finally, the authors claim that academic faculty members incorrectly believe that administrators keep office hours. "This myth implies that staff jobs are somehow 'easy' because we 'only' work 40 hours per week," the post says.

However, "while it may be true that one's schedule is (sometimes) 8 (or 9) to 5, those work hours tend to be jam-packed with meetings, research, appointments with students (and) workshops."

The blog concludes that graduate students may feel ambivalent about "alternative" academic positions because administrative staff and academic faculty are portrayed as being opposed to each other.

"Eliminating some of the myths around alternative academic positions can help legitimize these careers as well as help faculty, staff, and administrators work together for the good of students."

The University of Venus blog is hosted by Inside Higher Ed.

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