March 16, 2015
Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology
As I write it’s the day before Spring Break with 2 ½ weeks left before the deadline to submit a paper to the annual AEJMC competition.
I had such plans!
No one stole those plans, but something stole the time to do them: administration.
This has been a particularly busy year at the Greenlee School. Our enrollment burgeoned from 612 to 850 in the past three years. Faculty hires did not keep pace with the unanticipated growth, so we have been working diligently to staff all classes, requiring special requests to the Dean and hiring of a dozen adjuncts. Also, this is a re-accreditation year for us, adding to the paperwork.
By many standards, I have been productive since becoming an administrator, first at Ohio University in 1995 and later at Iowa State in 2003. During that time I published several books, dozens of articles, top-paper presentations and more.
Each year, however, my scholarly productivity declined, unnoticeably at first but significantly over time.
I know the reason. Administration has become more complex, not only at Iowa State but elsewhere, especially at public research institutions. Legislative oversight can be a good thing, ensuring taxpayer funds are being used judiciously. But that has added more paperwork to document everything from surveys about work load and climate to regulations about purchases and expenditures (not to mention account management of federal grants and alumni donations).
It’s ironic to call this “paperwork” because almost everything now is digital. More personnel have been hired to manage the technology. I’m not only referring to IT staff. Online administration requires more staff throughout the institution to monitor, modify and/or sign off on nearly every task.
Technology was supposed to save time. That would be true, if the level of documentation today remained the same as 20 years ago when online systems first were introduced to facilitate processes and policies and manage book- and recordkeeping.
Rest assured: I am not criticizing the efficiency of technology in storing and maintaining records. As a journalist, I know the value of Freedom of Information requests. Paper documentation also requires storage space, which technology largely has eliminated, allowing us to use building space for academic purposes.
But there has been a cost: finding time for scholarship.
So today I am not working on an AEJMC submission. I am working on budget for an upcoming meeting. In a few hours, my associate director and I will visit with our dean and associate deans to make our case for more funding (ironically in part for technology). After the meeting, I will return to my office to input new data in myriad online systems.
Then I will have a choice: to spend Spring Break preparing an AEJMC paper or recuperating from paperwork.
Soon enough, if not already, you will confront the same choice.