March 31, 2004

Interview #11

Today I'll be interviewing my friend Elena. She's a university spainish and italian instructor and wants to get some stuff off her mind.

KC: What about work has been pissing you off lately?

EL: I have two things that are kind of related but the big things are when people twist info to make themselves look good and when people do not take ownership of past mistakes, comments, etc.

KC: OK, give us the dirt on HOW people are twisiting information to make themselves sound good.

EL: Blind copying (rather obviously by the kind of info included in the message) higher ups on emails with messages like "by the way, did you take care of this urgent thing that we discussed" - which had never been mentioned.

KC: What about academia today motivates this kind of behavior?

EL: This behavior is not unique to academia, but is born of insecurity or envy. If one were to focus on problems unique to academia, one could cite the fact that academia in some ways is struggling to recreate an identity in a world where business models are the only reference for how things should be done. ie, if I want to make changes to the curriculum or pay structure, the number of commitees/people who have to "approve" the change makes it slower than government and often so far from the original proposal that it fails its original goal. There are exceptions to this, of course. I work with two extremely very capable faculty members who are focused on goals, sensitive to the "stakeholders" and effective in their follow-up. It's taken a while to be recognized for this excellence, though.

KC: How, in particular, are these two faculty members excellent?

EL: They solicit meaningful feedback from all involved or affected by a desicion and they focus on the message/intent/experience of those giving the feedback, rather than selectively choosing or "interpreting" the info that may be beneficial to them in moving forth their own agenda (which inevitably results in greater problems down the line).

KC: Is there really an "agenda" for those who create the problems other than their own perceived advancement?

EL: Sure, sometimes they want to ingratiate themselves to others, avoid making waves, avoid extra resposibility on their part, or simply to be contrary. I suppose there is a perceived personal benefit, but it's different from an agenda.

KC: I suppose what I'm asking is are these butt-suckers really interested in improving the academic environment? Do they even understand how their behavior stifles intellectual betterment?

EL: Ah, I see. I think some truly don't have an understanding of the "big picture" with regard to intellectual betterment. They may have neither the expertise, experience nor capability.

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