In the last couple of weeks, I have been greatly irritated by various administrative pests we have in this Universities – forms, practices, and rules that eat more time and resources than they save and produce. I am probably becoming a pain in the butt for various departments and units for asking them to reconsider how they run their business. No, I am pretty sure of that.
Here is one example, just bear with me. To travel to a conference, a faculty member must submit the Travel Authorization form, along with a conference program. There can be up to five people signing this document: the traveler, School director, the Dean, SPARC or grant administrators, if these money are involved, and in some cases, VP for finance. These people must approve in advance things like the 2nd bag fee. The only reason we even have this form is that some 10 years ago there was an embarrassing case of travel abuse. But we are still so scared; every trip must be obsessively authorized in advance, and then the reimbursement is authorized yet again, just to confirm that the first authorization is still valid.
Then when you come back, you must submit all receipts, of course, and complete another form – it has to be signed by hand, by all the same people again, in sequence – by sending the hard copy from one office to the next. In up to seven moves through campus mail, at least two people handle these forms – the administrative assistant, and whoever is signing it. Each of them can be on vacation, or too busy. Each of them can put the forms in a wrong place and then forget about them. The traveler, who needs the money, will eventually come to Karon who originates this entire paper stream. Karon will start calling through the 3-7 offices, trying to find out where the papers are. All of this takes literally thousands of work hours every year, and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, for no particular benefit. Remember some of the people involved are highly paid individuals, and administrative assistants, although they are not highly paid, still spend a lot of time on mindless activities instead of working with students, faculty, and keeping us on track.
When we reimburse travel for routine things like field supervision trips, we must use two different accounts, because many years ago someone thought it would be interesting to see how much money student teaching really costs. They were never able to do that (we still don't know how much it costs), but we are stuck with the two accounts. Now, if you supervise several students for different field experiences, you must submit two different reimbursement forms to two different admin assistants.
And I can give you at least a dozen examples of pests: pointless paperwork, unnecessary irritations and hoops we make each other jump through. Why? - Because no one is really paying attention to these things. Faculty are very powerful on campus, but they don't see the underlying organizational grid, and just want to see things done. Administrators like me are highly compartmentalized, and can barely keep up with our own operations, partly because we're inundated with the pests. We are not in a position to address campus-wide systemic problems. And when we do, we get a cold shower from other administrators who suspect we are invading their turf. Administrative assistants see most of the pests, but they lack voice and power to demand change.
Amongst all the frustration, my week had a great highlight. After years of enforcing it, we were able to abolish the TB test requirement. After a letter from CDHE, and our own investigation, we realized that none of the largest school districts we work with require the test anymore. They all abandoned the requirement over the years, but forgot to tell us, and we forgot to ask. Every year, 11 hundred students or so line up with their $30 in hand to get a TB test, and bring us a copy. Each student does it 2-4 times over the PTEP program. Dead, abolished, nevermore! Nothing gives me more satisfaction than killing administrative pests like this. I can kill them all day, every day.