Administrators From Hell

When I first started working at Ohio University there was nobody in the department of philosophy whose specialization was ethics. This was something of a problem, since ethics, along with metaphysics and epistemology, is arguably one of the most important components of any decent philosophy program. So we went to the dean with a request for money to hire someone with that specialization. In rejecting our request the dean said that she and her staffing committee didn't think that ethics had anything to do with philosophy and that the people already in the department should teach ethics themselves if they think it's so important.

Happily there is a new dean these days who knows a little more about the structures of the traditional humanities departments, and we now have a full-time ethicist on board. This is good not only for our department, but for the university, which can now claim to have a real philosophy department, instead of just a pretend one. To be fair to the old dean, her staffing committee obviously didn't know any more about the humanities than she did, but it is rather remarkable how administrators can get it into their heads that the academic parts of a university work for them, rather than the other way around.

I was reminded of all this after reading this brief story about excavations of Aristotle's Lyceum in Athens. The site was discovered in 1996 and it has yet to garner the sort of attention it deserves because the ministry of culture doesn't really understand what it is the site of. To some administrators, if there aren't any dramatic marble columns with magnificent stone carvings, then it isn't tourist-worthy and doesn't get any funding. I suppose such attitudes are marginally better than Talibanesque statue destruction, but it raises again the question of just whom it is that these administrators think they work for.

Comments

Dan said…
I agree. It is amazing how giving someone (or, more often, a group of people) a little power can eventually result in forgetting why that power was given in the first place.
dave106 said…
Their is no such thing as a decent philosopy program.
Scott Carson said…
Dave

Sounds like you really know what you're talking about! Which one did you graduate from?

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