Academic Administration. Good or Evil?

Don’t you just love administration? And I do not mean “like”. I mean absolutely loving every minute you spend in front of your computer, downloading forms, filling them up and then sending them off to cyberspace. Did you ever wish you had more administrative tasks to complete? Did you ever look back at your long and arduous day hoping that you had one more report to fill before you went to bed? I know I did.

No I am not perverse. I just came up with the perfect solution to a very difficult problem. I started to use administration the same way I use meditation. The benefits of meditation are well known. There are several studies indicating the part of the brain they affect. By now, we understand fairly well how meditation slows the brain, clarifies the thoughts, helps us focus on the “here and now” and balances the emotions. In effect, it empties the mind from unwanted negative thoughts and gives new meaning to life. I cannot possibly support the theory that administration benefits us in exactly the same way as meditation. However, I can inform you that it has one similar effect. It empties the brain. The past few years I noticed that every time I fill a new form or write down a complicated report my brain stops functioning in its full capacity. In the beginning I felt frustrated. As time passed by, though, I learned how to use this effect to its full advantage. By now, when I want to rest from the demanding article I write or the dissertation I am correcting, I turn to the most tedious administrative task that is pending. Within minutes any clever forthcoming thoughts die on the spot.

Another way to use administration is as a meaningful form of procrastination. When the ultimate theoretical model eludes me, when the trip to the library in Cambridge or London seems way to long, when writing does not flow, I need to procrastinate. Nevertheless, procrastination allows feelings of guilt to arise. Unless, of course, I occupy myself with something productive. And what can be more productive than administrative work? It immediately boosts my self esteem, I become more confident and definitely happier. And when I am happy, I spread joy to the world. I become the perfect colleague, friend and confidant. In fact, sometimes outside my office door you will even see the sign “Please Disturb”.

So, I have one advice to the vice chancellors of the world who suggest that academics should undertake more administration: By all means, give as more! As soon as procrastination becomes our best friend, as soon as our brain cells become dead, we will fully qualify for the highest echelons of the British Academia.

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. Constantina, simply excelelnt (your article on acad. admin!) seriously…you have a journalist’s talent!

  2. Not that I ever had to do any administrative work, but reading your post made me want to use history only as an excuse to do paperwork!

    Who needs history? Let’s live on paperwork!

  3. Constantina, you are right. I have spent much of today on administrative tasks, and I feel good. But I should not feel good. Administrative tasks have as much intrinsic point to them as paying one group of workers to dig holes in the road and another group to fill them in again, Keynes’s prescription for recovery from economic depression.

    Suppose that administration was all taken away from us by clever computers. We would feel lost for a while, but eventually we would find other ways to give our brains time off from serious thinking. Bertrand Russell’s essay “In Praise of Idleness” sets out a most virtuous circle. On the one hand, “Leisure is essential to civilization”. On the other hand, “The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education”.

    • This is one of the most inspiring interpretations of Keynes theory as I can remember. According to some historians it is the ticket to great civilisations? Haven’t the Romans done someithing similar to occupy the masses (ooops I should not be using this word) in the cities?

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