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NotKelly 26th February 2010 4:50 PM

Anyone work at a University? (aka The Unreal World)
Is it just me, or are universities just the weirdest places to work on the planet in terms of things that would never "fly" out there in the "real world" outside of academia? (i.e., supervisors' behavior, workers' attitude, etc) So much money is spent on shiny surfaces, while down below there's nothing but rot.

If you've worked at a university for any length of time you must have noticed, as I have, how many employees are there just sitting there on their butts and not keeping up with the times. Our college PR office has over the past few years, like other news rooms, had to switch over to web based and more decentralized ways of doing things... but now we have quite a few "dead weight" employees who feel they don't have to learn how to post their own things on websites, learn how to work with e-mail marketing, etc, and they are quite content to sit back and let all this work devolve on one or two employees who are willing to roll with the changes. No one EVER calls them on it (because "we're all one big happy family here").

In the real world, lazy employees like this would be told to learn new skills or be replaced by people who are willing to learn... but then again "management" is often a hazy concept. I've seen this at numerous universities I have worked at (and is the #1 reason why I'm looking to leave academia), where everyone is so nicey nice and "civilized" that no one actually wants to manage the employees and, once in a while, tell them to shape up.

Some of these lazy employees are parents working to put their kids through school with remitted tuition benefits, so nobody actually wants to FIRE them... that would be "too mean" apparently. The last time I can remember anyone actually getting canned at the school I am currently at, was a couple years ago and it was only because the chancellor himself got involved.

When I was young and starry eyed, working in a university environment seemed appealing. You'd get to be around all those erudite people who would be smart and great conversationalists. It does turn out that these erudite people, while often quite nice, are clueless when it comes to running a department. (Professors can be the worst... which is why the typical scenario in an academic department is the nice professor who pops in now and then and his loyal, battle-ax administrative assistant who is furiously trying to creatively rearrange the budget every six months because the professor has no clue as to what money is.)

I'm personally of the opinion that beneath the pomp and circumstance, most American colleges are tottering wrecks of administrative and financial mismanagement. (What happened at Virginia Tech was no accident - it was simply mismanagement and people not paying attention.) What's sad is that kids are paying zillions of dollars to go to these schools with their shiny new lecture halls and probably have no idea that the offices where their records are kept are leaky and cockroach infested. I once worked at an admissions office where a bank of leaky toilets dripped down from the floor above onto a room filled with applications... and the admissions counselors had to review applicant files that smelled like turds... (and this was not a cheap public school!) Ironically this was in the same building where no expense had been spared to remodel the reception room for "fresh" prospective freshmen...

Does anyone else out there work at a college or university and want to chat? commiserate? bawl your eyes out? I mean to say, anyone who works at a University not as a professor or teacher - rather, the administrative support staff.

Perhaps 26th February 2010 7:37 PM

I've worked as a student with one of the departments.. it was good fun.

I don't know much about university employees being lazy but from what I know, don't professors get tenure? And once they get that, they prety much CANNOT be fired?

Correct me if I'm wrong.

bananaboat11 26th February 2010 7:41 PM

I'm a PhD candidate in a science related field (physiology/endocrinology/biochem) working with a clinical population...


SadandConfusedWA 26th February 2010 7:55 PM

I have worked at a university for almost 4 years now. I feel like academic world is some sort of alternate universe and I can't say that I completely hate it. Some things are worse, some things are better. I have noticed a divide between administrative and academic stuff, as in each group tends to hang out with their own. I feel like we are all a lot closer to each other than normal "boss-employee-co-workers" are.

I think that profs and academics in general aren't too concerned with practical matters (i.e. managing money etc). They are starry eyed over new piece of research they are working on or a new publication that will bring them one step closer to immortality. I actually admire people that are driven by something else than purely money (as is most of the western world).

NotKelly 27th February 2010 12:10 AM


Originally Posted by Perhaps (Post 2676935)
I've worked as a student with one of the departments.. it was good fun.

I don't know much about university employees being lazy but from what I know, don't professors get tenure? And once they get that, they prety much CANNOT be fired?

Correct me if I'm wrong.

No, you're not wrong about professors. But I was specifically talking about non-professors and non-teachers - that is to say, about people who work at Universities as support staff. That is to say: The people who type the professors' memos. The people who make their travel arrangements. The people who clean their bathrooms. The people who arrange the conferences and seminars. The people who write the press releases about the professors' research. The people who design websites and keep the computers running. The invisible army of people at Universities who are not teaching. Professors and students often have very little sense of just what gigantic operations these schools are.

Just to say, I have worked for some nice professors. But right now, I am not working with professors or students at all... just with a lot of administrators, who can just as clueless and who also have unofficial "tenure" in that they can be incompetent and never get fired. When someone is really awful at their job, the powers that be tend to "kick them upstairs" and give them a meaningless title/job, unlike in the real world where these people are just let go.

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