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Stop Calling it “The Dark Side”

When a faculty member moves into administration, instructors often tease the selected individual, who has “fled to the dark side.” We teachers have been known also to point to the administration building (if there is one) and say, “That’s where good ideas go to die.” Always gets a laugh.

But we should stop saying such things, according to Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt, in Inside Higher Ed. She’s …um, an administrator at Cleveland State University. Actually the piece is thoughtful and worth a look. Any time you think relations between faculty and administration are in bad shape at a community college, you should visit with folks at a big university.

Dr. Lehfeldt works at a large institution, and you will often find that a general lack of trust goes up with size. This is not always the case, but layered bureaucracy has a way of poisoning relationships. Very small schools, often with few financial resources, can surprise you with the amount of good will on campus. Maybe people in all positions see each other so often they are compelled to be nice. (There used to be a similar theory about the crowded nature of Japan—that it contributes to the purported politeness of its citizens. But then there is New York City, where you can stand inches away from someone on the subway and never make eye contact.)

Here is a campus model to shoot for, just for fun: When teachers and administrators are not jealous of each other’s jobs, it means a lot. When an instructor, on the way to class, sees a group of administrators in a meeting (dressed up and looking grim, poring over spreadsheets) and thinks, “Whew! I’m glad I’m not in there!” it helps. Likewise, when an administrator spots a teacher in front of a large class, holding their attention—maybe having fun—he or she might wonder, “How do they do that every day? Not me!”

This is a simplistic view, of course. But one reason the author(s) of the Ten Commandments included the part about coveting your neighbor’s stuff may be because covetousness makes people unhappy, even crazy. Same with stealing, killing, and adultery, for that matter. Not good for the Chosen Ones. Focus, people!

Thus endeth the Old Testament lesson for the day.