I just returned from the ARUCC Conference in Quebec where we were reminded by several presenters that Administration is the dark side of the university. I think we all know where that leaves Faculty…
Welcome to Part 3 of my three-part series that asks the question, “What is the Registrar for?” Since my last post on this topic was back in January, you may wish to refresh yourself by re-reading Part 1 and Part 2.
Faculty occasionally complain about administrators and administration, and sometimes (maybe even most of the time) for good reason. Administration can so easily dissolve into administrivia with its reams of red tape, rules and regulations. This is unfortunate but is avoidable. Faculty appreciate good administration because it allows everyone to focus on what they do best and, if done right, allows the university to keep its priorities in the right place: education first!
As with all things related to organizations, structure is important here. In the history of universities, the Registrar (Beadle, Registrary, etc.) always came out of the faculty, and for good reason. The Registrar who understands and is a vital part of the first priority of the university is a Registrar who should fight against unnecessary busy work. Proper structure helps to keep administration in its place.
Administration is not just about good structure – it is also about being able to use wisdom and good judgement in the execution of the priorities. Every single day I ask myself, “Can I stand in front of the University Senate and defend what I’m doing?” I learned this question from one of my own professors, Dr. Mark Lee, who taught me to ask, “Will this pass the 6:00 news test?” when I was doing my Master’s degree in Leadership & Management.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the priorities of the Registrar’s Office is to help students navigate the pathways of education. Good administration is one that cuts through blockages, removes unnecessary gates and educates students in how to be good navigators themselves. One of the worst things we can do is think we are parents whose job it is to protect students from all the potential ills of university life. These folks are adults – sometimes young and naive – but treating them as adults who need some advice in order to make good decisions is important. However, we also need to be supportive to those who face additional barriers in life, especially to members of society that are marginalized for whatever reasons.
As stressed in Parts 1 and 2, good communication is crucial to good administration, but something that often gets overlooked by registrars is that visibility is also important. Be visible! Go to faculty meetings. Eat lunch with deans and other administrators. Volunteer for committee work. Make presentations to your community. Share how your office is following the university’s strategic plan. There are thousands of books about administration. Read one and put one or two of the main ideas into action. I personally like to re-read Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership now and again. It’s written from the point of view of someone who spent his career in a similar level as a registrar, and resonates well with me.
Remember that the point of administration isn’t just to follow the rules; rather, it is to make the university work well and to serve all the members of the university community. Keeping this big picture in mind will keep the registrar on the path to success.