17 thoughts on “Is this good news or bad news?

    • Inorite? Joseph is pretty sure it’s on the level. (Unless maybe his column is a huge performance art experiment? It’s positively surreal.)

      Are you still at the Huntington? Hope your research goes/went well, in any case.


  1. Ouch. As the commenters note, he says that a “customer service” orientation and standards are not incompatible, but he gives no evidence (except perhaps that academic standards failed as he made his way through the system.)


    • Susan–check the link, which I discovered led to an old column of his (also called “Customer Service,” from 2012! (It’s an ongoing concern of his apparently.)

      I’ve corrected the link, which is mostly a complaint about being handed the incorrect “brochure” at a car dealership. WTF this has to do with higher education is a subject entirely unexplored in the column, dated 7/12/15.


  2. Apparently the (one) moral is that things go better (and customer service improves) when there are multiple layers of administrators to whom students can appeal.

    Since I can’t find an appropriately snarky/sarcastic way to allude to the fact, I’ll simply mention that contingent faculty (or, for that matter, rank and file faculty in general) are less likely than said administrators to have recent/frequent experience shopping at Bloomingdales.

    As a composition teacher, I’ll also note that the prose style of the piece strikes me as oddly elementary/unsophisticated. I suspect the author is trying to write in a good, straightforward style, a la Strunk and White’s advice (but not always their practice), except that I’m pretty sure that I could find a Strunk and White “error” in almost every sentence. Instead, the piece comes across as being written by someone who only knows how to write one kind of very basic subject/verb sentence (with a few variations), and hasn’t even mastered some key issues, such as maintaining parallelism, within that style/structure. The voice/style improves just a bit at the very end, but not by much(and still in a way that sounds more like an undergraduate than, presumably, the holder of a Ph.D.). And of course the title of the column only calls attention to the writing style (or lack thereof).

    Strange. Very strange.


    • CC–please see the article at the corrected link, posted above. (He’d already written a column three years ago with the same title!) It’s actually worse than the first column.


      • Oh, my. That *is* worse, both in (lack of) argument, and in the quality of the prose (or lack thereof — even the verb tenses aren’t consistent/parallel).


  3. Well, once a publication decides someone is an authority, the authority can peddle any kind of banality or perversity. I used to pull my hair out reading Gary Olson at the *Chronicle*. Like Berliner, he tended to make assertions with an unwarranted degree of self-assurance; does provosthood bring with it narcissism?


  4. Instead of parking (probably in a handicapped slot or blocking a fire hydrant) at the car dealership to pick up last year’s glossy brochure for a car, the guy should have swung over to the library on his campus–assuming they still have one–to “get the little book. Get the little book. Get the little book….” which is probably in a warehouse up in the Adirondacks somewhere. This reads like too many student essays. Strong topic sentence, at least a strongly *felt* topic sentence, and then it just sort of forgets to even get to the topic.


  5. Wow. That is pretty representative of a vast swath of middle management thinking both inside the academy and out. I wish it were satire, but it’s probably not. I need a drink. Is the sun up over the yard arm yet?


    • Agreed. He just needs a few badly sprinkled buzzwords to really represent that genre. Surely all that poor customer service is “ripe for disruption”…


  6. This kind of writing– administrativespeak maybe? — always strikes me as being about working to write as unoriginally as possible — show that you can throw around the “right” buzzwords and concepts, rather than actually attempting to say something distinctive or meaningful. Like this is his +1 to “universities should be run like businesses” rhetoric, and nothing more.


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