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Football for the Alumni; Sex for the Students; Parking for the Faculty

Parking.jpgOnly one of the three classic responsibilities of a College President is my topic for today. I have nothing to add about football; and according to all reports, this generation of students seems to have the second subject quite adequately covered; however, parking for the faculty is an ever-increasing topic of discussion on campus.

At a compact residential college, there is no greater luxury for students than being able to drop in to see faculty in their offices — if their professors are there. Permanent office hours and random interactions in the corridors of a department between faculty themselves and faculty/students are among the things that separate the College from large, anonymous universities.

But the growth in the number of the College’s non-teaching administrators cuts against this goal. Despite the fact that a great many bureaucrats have moved out of the central campus area over the past few years (the Development Office left Blunt and went up to Centerra; Human Resources is on Lebanon Street; various other offices are in new buildings on Main Street, and so on) professors are still often obliged to park in outer parking lots and bus into their offices — because the close-in parking spaces are filled with administrators who work set schedules. Dropping by the department isn’t an option when slow bus service from distant lots turns a quick visit into an hour-long trek. This was not always the case at Dartmouth.

The College can say what it wants about restraining the growth of the non-teaching bureaucracy; I’ll measure the number of excess paper-pushers by the ease with which faculty can come to their offices to see and be seen by students. President Kim, as you take out the budget-paring knife (a woodsman’s axe is really what is needed), remember that each excess support position that is trimmed makes it easier for the faculty to work with students directly — the activity that is the College’s lifeblood — rather than staying home in front of a screen and beside the phone.

Tomorrow: another startling reason why there is too little parking for the faculty on campus. It is amazing the things that surface when one starts to look into a issue.

Note: It seems that Daniel S. Hamermesh of the University of Texas made the same observation about the importance of parking last year in the NYT, though his school’s parking problem is the result of construction, not administrative bloat.

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