What is the Registrar for? (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 I asked what the profession of Registrar is for – why have one, why become one? I started with leadership but now want to focus on service. In Part 3 we’ll talk about administration.

Registrars, whether they like it or not, sometimes have a bad rep. I recently met with a retired university President who, upon discovering that I was a Registrar, blurted out, “I never had so much trouble than with registrars!” To which I retorted that I found presidents to be a most troublesome breed, too (which I said with a big grin on my face and we parted amicably).

Unfortunately too many Registrars have earned a reputation for being troublesome.I think it’s because of two main reasons:

  • the expectations of the hiring committee;
  • a misunderstanding of who or what the Registrar serves.

Hiring committees are rightly concerned about records and risk management. There is little that is more damaging to a university’s reputation than poor record management. Poor record management can land you in court, in the news, and in the bad books of your best marketers – students and parents of students. So, hiring committees often focus on hiring Registrars that are very, very careful, and very, very detail conscious. What is often unseen or unspoken, or even unknown in such cases is that it is the records and the Registrar that are being served and protected. I will be the first to acknowledge that protecting Registrars and record management is important (hey, I want to save my neck too!), but hiring committees put the cart before the horse with such emphasis.

Service takes into account good records management, but keeps it in its place. A Registrar focused on serving the goals of the students and the university will understand that poor records management equals poor service. But good service is much more than having good records.

Good service from the Registrar’s Office means helping clear pathways to education for students. It is listening to the students – not just listening to the question (“I need this form filled out.”) but to what’s behind the question (“I see this form is to withdraw. May I ask you why you want to withdraw?”) It’s giving students a map detailing their next steps. It’s cutting through red tape. It’s educating about education, too.

Good service from the Registrar means listening to Faculty concerns too. It means providing them with the information they need to do their jobs well. It’s cutting through red tape. It’s educating them about their students.

Good service from the Registrar should very rarely mean these people hear “No, I’m sorry, you can’t do that” from us. What they should get is a listening ear, one that expresses care for their concerns and needs.

Good service from the Registrar’s Office means listening to the needs of Administration. As I have argued before, an awful lot of information comes into and flows out of the Registrar’s Office and we are not just keepers of this information. Good service from the Registrar means making this information available and useful. It means listening to the university’s needs for information about itself and its students. It means proving feedback, reports, and big picture impressions. The Registrar should provide the President, Deans, and other administrators with the tools they need to help them know what’s going on with students and courses. This can be challenging – perhaps even more challenging than serving students and faculty (although these can be an unruly bunch), but hey, if you’re not up for a challenge what gets you up out of bed each morning?

The Registrar who listens and serves these three groups before serving her records and reputation will be a Registrar who is sought out and in demand. This is a Registrar who will last and who will find her opportunity for leadership (see Part 1) increased.

Of course, the Registrar who neglects Administration will find his opportunities diminished, so we cannot neglect that either. That’s the topic for Part 3, coming soon.




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