Academic Self Help

April 12, 2017


I received an Amazon gift certificate last week, so I’ve been filling my cart with indulgent and impractical items. Plus a few books–titles that I am certain will guide, enrich, or entertain me in some way but which I’m reluctant to buy for myself.

For example: The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, by C.K. Gunsalus. (Harvard University Press, 2006.) This is a book I have been eying for some time. The obstacle to purchasing it has been, until now, its list price. Twenty two dollars seems too high for a volume that is not going to bring any pleasure.

Then again, I find myself reasoning, most books on the subject of educational administration cost a great deal more. I suspect that these other titles cost so much because they are supposed to be charged against a university budget, and this makes me skeptical about any advice they might contain. Their pricing seems complicit with economies of higher education in which notions of value are entwined with–indeed, organized around–robbing students to bloat executive salaries (and calling for austerity as soon as questions of labour and economic equity among the professoriat come up). With its modest purchasing price, The College Administrator’s Survival Guide signals its place, potentially, in an alternative moral economy.

Or maybe not. Browsing through the literature on professional development in academic administration is like browsing through the self help section in the College Bookstore at the National University of Mordor. This impression is particularly acute when you flip through the Customers Also Bought feature on the Amazon website. An algorithmic snapshot of academics as consumers of professional literature, its selected titles narrate an anxious melodrama, filled with fear and loathing, that progresses from the high-toned to the desperate to the resigned. Here it is, in the form of a listicle.

Positive Academic Leadership
The Essential Department Chair
Working with Problem Faculty
The Department Chair Primer
The Essential Academic Dean
Time Management for Department Chairs
Building the Academic Deanship
Realizing the Distinctive University
Difficult Conversations
Building Academic Leadership Capacity
Best Practices in Faculty Evaluation
Faculty Incivility
Bully in the Ivory Tower
Servant Leadership for Higher Education
The No Asshole Rule
Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education
Communication Strategies for Managing Conflict
Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks
Leading Academic Change
Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy
A Toolkit for Department Chairs
The Academic Deanship
A toolkit for Deans
Advice for New Faculty Members
Workplace Bullying in Higher Education
Seasons of a Dean’s Life
You’re in Charge: Now What?

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