being an administrator is weird

I just spent equal amounts of time on writing two letters:

A reference for a colleague who has been nominated for a President’s Award for Excellence


A reply to a note from a student demanding that we provide free scotch tape because she pays tuition.

And I cannot help but stop to think… THIS? This is my job?

Yes. Yes it is. And I have to do all the strange, incongruous, deeply important pieces of it with as much grace and skill as I can muster, even when I cannot quite see the depth of their importance. Because you never know where your choices will land. You never know which words will be heard. You never know who’s watching, what they need, or how they feel about what you’ve done.

There’s no place for flip in this job of mine… except maybe in today’s staff meeting, which was pretty loose and filled with laughter. But even then, I wonder what people remember, what verbal misstep I may have made, and how loose is too loose?

All I can do is my best.

But I’m still not providing free tape.


  1. At first I thought you said provide free scotch. That would be really user-centric.

    But students use that argument for everything. “I deserve eternal access to databases because I pay X in tuition.” “I deserve a unicorn and a free parking space for it because I pay tuition.”

    Tuition doesn’t mean you get whatever you desire.


  2. One of the things about being an administrator is that, as you go through the pinball machine of your day, with each half hour’s task or meeting completely different from the last, for the person that you are dealing with at the moment (either in person or in some other fashion) the topic at hand may be the most important thing to them for that entire day or week, no matter where it falls in your priority list. So you’ve got to remember to treat them all with the same degree of respect and seriousness. That said, making sure that every day has a healthy dose of laughter and yes, even silliness, is just as important to getting the job done right.


  3. Dear Tape student: your tuition also partially covers the Chancellor’s digs, but this does not mean you can walk into his house and use the bathroom whenever you want. Kisses, Directorperson.

    On a more serious note: Dear Tape student, we’d love to be able to provide all and sundry, but we can barely keep you in equipment to get on the ‘net and/or conduct your research and/or do your homework. Sadly, this puts providing consumables way down the priority list. Kisses, Directorperson

    (To be fair, I think I stole the house analogy from Steve)


  4. I really loved the people from the community who wanted us to provide free ILL because we were funded by the taxpayers, as the budget was being cut in double digit numbers.

    And the new Honor novel is out next Tuesday, stay strong!


    • OMIGOD I had forgotten about the new Honor Harrington. that’s a lovely reminder. 🙂

      I’m considering posting the tape letter. 🙂

      T. Scott, that’s precisely it — I have to treat every encounter as though it’s the most important thing in the other person’s day. It’s both very hard and completely worth it… on the good days, when the energy’s right. On bad days, it’s harder than hell and feels like the aforementioned pinball machine.

      Coll and Andy… hahahahaha.


  5. They’re ONLY asking for tape? My students ask for manila folders, packs of flash cards, envelopes, large envelopes, etc. They don’t like when I tell them “I have scrap paper, but that’s it.”

    PLEASE post the tape letter. Pretty please?


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