Who ARE these people?

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It’s probably been twenty years since I first saw this bit of photocopier humor. (Now that it’s on the internet, it’s called a “meme,” but it used to just be called “this thing I put on my bulletin board.”)


The caption at the bottom read, “Times are getting tough. We might have to lay off Andre.”

Cute, right? But let’s think about this in terms of higher education. Who are all these people standing above the project?

  • the Human Resources Manager
  • the Marketing Manager
  • the Logistic Manager
  • the Security Manager
  • the IT Manager
  • the Communications Manager
  • the Project Manager
  • the Internal Supervisor
  • the Product Development Manager
  • the PR Manager

One of the projects involved in the new book on higher ed will be to determine… who are all of those people who stand above the project? There’s a lot of broadsiding about how “the administration” has grown in size and power while “the faculty” has been weakened and shrunk. But we won’t really understand how higher ed has changed unless we make those labels much more specific, and look at how the inhabitants of those two communities have changed.

Take IT, for instance. In 1976, when I went to college the first time, there was no IT department, because there were no computers to speak of. Faculty members didn’t have computers on their desks, students didn’t have smart phones in their pockets, and the Arpanet was home to a few thousand really smart people. Now computers are ubiquitous, take multiple forms, carry sensitive material, and the Internet is home to billions of people I wouldn’t trust to carry a bag of groceries to the car. So the whole IT endeavor has been bolted onto higher ed, a whole class of non-Andre’s who are essential to our current understanding of its nature.

Who else has arrived, looking down into the pit? That’s one of the dozen or so research questions that will be part of the next project.