23 Sep 2010


At a recent advancement interview, a professor asked a candidate what he had learned in the last two years.

“I learned about the running of huge institutions by the hard way,” the candidate answered. “When I worked in private companies, the important thing was to get things done and procedures could be ignored. In a huge institution like the university, procedures are everything. People do not really care whether things really get done. If I want to do something, I have to stick to steps 1 to 5. If I somehow miss step 4, people would ask me to start from step 1 again. Of course, through the process, I also learned whom to approach.”

You think he failed? Not quite. First, the other potential candidates did not come to the interview. Second, all three interviewers liked his answer. In fact, I must say that after all these years, I still do not understand the administration of the university as well as this young man does. Whenever I look through the directory wondering who is responsible for what, I feel like Barnabas in The Castle.

“Is it even Castle work that Barnabas is doing, we then ask; he certainly does go into the offices, but are the offices actually the Castle? And even if the Castle does have offices, are they the offices Barnabas is permitted to enter? He enters offices, but those are only a portion of the total, then there are barriers and behind them still more offices.”

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