the administrative bends

For the past eight years, I’ve held a significant academic administrative role in the university, that of Associate Dean Education for my Faculty. I very much enjoyed the role; hard work but enjoyable work, and I took advantage of the opportunity to get more engaged with the wider work around the university.

The end of last month was the end of my time in the role, and it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. The associate dean role came with some amount of pressure. There was always something to do; always another meeting in the diary; always an email that needed a response; always a question that required consideration. And over the past eight years, I got used to that constant external pressure.

And now, that pressure is gone. There are still some things that require time and attention in the short term, things that remain uncompleted that remain for me to work through. There are some things that I got involved in that I’m remaining involved in, which are not directly related to the associate dean role but where I suspect being an associate dean caused my head to poke above the parapet.

But the email traffic has significantly slowed down and there are far fewer meetings in the diary, and this is where the title comes from. This very quick release of the external pressure of the role has given me, for lack of a better term, a case of the administrative bends.

There is still a lot to do: I’m transitioning back into being a working academic mathematician. I don’t have any significant teaching in the second semester but I have a long long list of research projects with which I need to renew my acquaintance, and with which I want to renew my acquaintance, and that’s a road I’m starting to walk down.

But it is interesting. Looking back, the external pressure of my former role provided a structure, doing work between the meetings and other requirements of the role. And now that structure, that skeleton is gone, and it now falls to me to remember how things were before.

I will miss the role. I will miss the way that it helped me, required me in fact, to interact with people across the university in a way that I can only hope to replicate (to a lesser extent) through other work.

But I also look forward to the change of role. I look forward to doing more teaching and getting back to my list of questions of interest. But I can tell that the battle against these administrative bends will take some time and some effort.

I can see, looking around, that this phenomenon isn’t uncommon in universities, where particularly the academic staff move between roles, taking on larger academic-related administrative responsibilities and then giving them up. Slow decompression isn’t always an option, and it would be interesting to hear from others who have experienced something similar and whether they’ve found a good way to ease the bends.

~ by Jim Anderson on 12 February 2022.

One Response to “the administrative bends”

  1. I’ve just given up a significant part of my day job (administrative, not academic) and I think I’m going to enjoy the extra time to work on other projects… but yes, it feels a bit weird as I make the transition. I do, however, think it will be a significant improvement once I’ve made a few adjustments.

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