10th February

structure is the least of their problems.

I have always had a strangely Fordist habit of actually 'going to work'. As a consequence, my workplace friends and acquaintances have often been 'non faculty'. This is not to claim some perverse street credibility or the delusion of being outside of what is being described here. It is simply to suggest that it is deeply sobering to listen to how they view the behaviour of academics. Some say there is a stark division on campus between the 'intellects' who regard each other as peers - whether loved or loathed - and the 'clericals' who are non-persons disregarded or disparaged. As the minute takers and intellectual non-combatants they are witness to bickering in meetings, paddies of high moral principle and the worst cases of academic vanity. Highly intelligent people are reduced to acting like squabbling children at the seaside in 'red bucket' syndrome: "I want to build my sand castle with the red bucket not the yellow one!" That is how it often seems to bewildered secretaries and administrators who have to manage what one friend described as the full "cornucopia of personality disorders". More disturbing is the double standards with regard to workplace etiquette where support staff are ignored in ways that a faculty colleague simply would not be.

A former secretary of an academic department offered three pieces of advice (her own three 'red buckets') for academic staff:


1. Before you ask a question of an administrator, check the emails they have sent you in the last week or so. The fact that you have suddenly thought of that question probably means that a section of your brain was prompted by an email you've received that answers all your queries perfectly, but you didn't read it at the time.

2. If you ask an administrator to do something, please trust them to do it. The fact they haven't done it within two to three minutes of you sending the email or speaking to them does not mean they are ignoring you. In fact, if you check your emails you will probably find that they were waiting for a vital piece of information from you. What they don't appreciate is slogging through your rambling prose/random, seemingly unconnected words (please delete as appropriate), finding your response to the question they asked you four days ago, doing the task and then being informed by someone else that the job is already done because you decided to do it yourself anyway.

3. Administrators are not sitting twiddling their thumbs and filing their nails waiting for you to come to them with that thing you should have done last month and now needs to be sorted by tomorrow. Do not expect to be greeted with a smile in this circumstance. Administrators tend to plan their time which means if you have come to them for help because you have failed to do so, they will then be under even more pressure than the students/university/HoD/ other members of staff/external agencies already put them under. Realise that an emergency for you will mostly be very low




26 February