Sep 2, 2008

On Academic Nomadism and Institutional Bureaucracy

As a member of the segment of the academic population known as academic nomads, I have been forced to develop the unusual (and perhaps unenviable) skill of knowing how to maneuver through unfamiliar institutional bureaucracies. There is a certain specialized language of academic bureaucracy that takes some time to get used to, but learning college-speak is a necessary prerequisite to the life of the nomad.

Departments like "media services" and "technical support" contain some of the best friends an academic nomad will make, as these folks hold the keys to network access (of course, they also monitor the keylogger software, but my use of university networks is always responsible). Forget human resources, as the checks will eventually arrive: without the power to access a university's computer network, a modern academic nomad is hopelessly isolated.

As I write this post I am sitting in yet another temporary office filling in for another full-time professor. I am glad for the opportunity to teach, but I know that the end of the semester means that this office space will likely be filled by another short-term hire, unless it sits vacant for a term. Thus I resist the urge to bring in wall posters, extra books, family pictures, and other elements of personalization, as these will just mean a weightier move in December.

Of course, part-time college instructors do not have the additional unpaid chores of their full-time counterparts, like committee work and departmental meetings. Still, I find myself looking with envy upon those folks who have a place to call their academic homes.

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