Saturday, November 3, 2012

Help Wanted--Must Be Willing To Relocate!

It seems there there are suddenly a few job openings at Enema U.  Our president is... missing.  Shortly, we will begin a national search for a new president.  And we will undoubtedly hire a consultant to help us with this task.  We do this a lot.  A consultant is someone with an advanced degree, who lives out of state, and who can, if the search goes badly, be blamed for egregious errors.

At the university level, one of the most curious things about consultants who help you hire someone, is that, within a few years, that same consultant will try to lure the new hire to yet another school.  In Texas, we frown on buying cattle from a rustler who you know in advance will steal the cattle back.

Yet, the university keeps hiring consultants to help fill all the top positions. This makes about as much sense as a sailor on shore leave asking a pimp to help him find true love.  No matter what the consultants say about a candidate during the job interview, the candidate always ends up being a cheap hooker who tells us exactly what we want to hear.  Then the pimp--I meant consultant--finds the next john.

Why in the world doesn't the university promote from within its own ranks?  We have very good people on campus who have roots here, know the university, and know both our weaknesses and our strengths.  To continue to hire outside candidates to use our campus as a stepping stone to a "higher" office is madness.

I understand that some professors are so valuable in their current jobs that it would be counterproductive to take them out of the classroom or laboratory to put them behind an administrator's desk.  For example, there is a professor working down in the basement of the biology building who is crossbreeding mosquitos that will suck fat instead of blood.  Leaving this genius in the lab means there are still over a thousand other potential candidates on campus.

In the twenty plus years that I have been at the university, the procession of deans, provosts, and presidents has been nearly endless.  Thinking back over the people who held these jobs, the best were nearly always the ones who had been promoted from within--usually only as an interim position holder, while yet another "national search" was conducted to replace them.

Naturally there have been a few exceptions--we have had several good people come to the university.  It is amazing how some people can rapidly adjust to a small town in the southwest, and I truly admire the ones who do.  Quite a few people never truly make the town their home.  And why should they?--The promise of a promotion in their career brought them here, so it is only natural that the same enticement draws them away.

One of the problems with bringing in outside people is the constant need for these new people to build something--anything!--to prove to the next search committee at some future university, that they had been a successful administrator at their last job.  This Edifice Complex inevitably leaves the campus with new buildings, but not necessarily the buildings that we need.

Enema U has two medium-sized library buildings.  Does anyone really believe that two library buildings, which are together smaller than the one really needed to do the job, make sense?  The president at the time of the construction of the second building, did not have the funds to build a single library big enough for the campus, so we built half a library, about half a block from the old library.  This doubles the operating expense, but still leaves us with an old, inadequate library building, and gives us a new library building that cannot be expanded, and will never be big enough to handle our needs--and we did not double the shelf space.

Enema U needs classrooms.  We need more seminar rooms.  We need the kind of classrooms that seat 40-75 students.  We need them so badly that classes are cancelled for lack of space.  But that is not the kind of buildings we get.  I'm not sure, but the university seems to be planning to build the THIRD set of new office spaces for the coaches since I have been  at the university.  I know professors who have offices in rooms that used to be dormitory BATHROOMS.  (You can still feel the drains under the carpet as you walk across their offices!)  Exactly how are the coaches wearing out their old offices so fast?  Indoor archery?  Maybe someone should tell them that animal husbandry is under the jurisdiction of the school of agriculture (and should be housed in barns?).

We have a new mega-million dollar performing arts building--a building that just might be the ugliest building in the state.  Evidently, no one in the art department had any input into what the building was going to look like.  Was that really the most pressing need for the university?

The problem is that no one was ever hired by a large university for listing "Built classrooms" on a resume'.  They are hired because they built the new stadium, or took the athletic program to a conference in which the the school could not conceivably compete. They got hired because they left a university saddled with debts for bonds the school did not need to incur. 

One of the key jobs for any administrator--in either academia or business--is to train the people lower down the ladder from them for eventual advancement.  Show me a manager who has no one under him ready to take his job and I will show you a manager who should immediately be replaced.

It is not exactly like the university is short of mid-level managers, either.  We have enough brigadier generals to run a small African army.  I do not know of anyone who can explain the job functions of some of the new Vice Presidents running around the campus (and I've asked quite a few people). We have at least one upper administrator whose only useful job seems to be periodically walking a dog across campus--and that's not even our mascot.

No, I am afraid that we will conduct our national search, pay a consultant, and hire some Vice-President of Student Hypermatriculation from another university and make them President of Enema U.  Then, within months we will have a ground-breaking for the new Social Justice Center for Chronic Bed-Wetting Students.

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