The Plain Speaking Registrar

Academics are famous for making the simple complex. If there is a way to slice and dice a subject into smaller, disconnected pieces, a faculty member will do it. They make careers doing this!

We registrars work in complex academic worlds and the pull to the dark side of complex language and processes is strong. This article in The Atlantic got me thinking about registrarial jargon – the gobbledygook we can be tempted to use. I believe there are a few reasons we can be tempted toward complexity:

  • If I use complex language, it can make me look smarter.
  • If I make a situation appear complicated it can deter others from getting involved, leaving me to my own little kingdom.
  • The more I use technical language the more it appears that I am an insider, with access to insider information (and the power that is related to insider information).
  • I can portray a more authoritative image simply by the language I use.

But what would happen if we did the opposite – if we campaigned for more plain language that invites participation and involvement? What would happen if we gave up the illusion of control over our little fiefdoms?

I believe complexity breeds complexity, which only makes our lives worse. What if we made things simpler and used language that empowers participation from others?

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