13 May 2008

Administrative Burdens

The University of New Mexico is going through a strategic planning exercise, which stirs up the traditional complaint that it is a waste of time. (Old saying: Strategic planning is a waste of time, unless you don't do it.) The faculty in particular are unhappy at the amount of time they have to spend in committee meetings and planning discussions. It is a familiar complaint.

I had not realized how familiar, though, until I read the following item in the first volume of A History of the University in Europe. Philippus de Grevia started as a magister at the University of Paris in 1206, and became its chancellor from 1218 to 1236. He was a theologian, a poet, and an archetypal faculty member:
At one time, when each magister taught independently and when the name of the university was unknown, there were more lectures and disputations and more interest in scholarly things. Now, however, when you have joined yourselves together in a university, lectures and disputations have become less frequent; everything is done hastily, little is learnt, and the time needed for study is wasted in meetings and discussions.


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