THE FACELESS BUREAUCRAT ON THE OTHER SIDE (DOING PAPERWORK)

I’m enrolled to write paperwork for a new MA and I’m dismayed by how much we’re asked to do in so little time. This is so habitual in academia all over the world, I know I shouldn’t be surprised.

Also habitual is the supposition that paperwork must always be a priority, which means, specifically, that the research I’m currently engaged in will have to wait, once more. My teaching will necessarily go on but I’ll have less time to prepare lectures –students, be warned. Unless, that is, I take time off my weekend, which are the days, precisely, that I’m using to read bibliography for my research. Then there’s Easter, yes, but a have a life outside the university and people who share it and, um, they seem to want my company…

When I was young and dreamed of being a university teacher, thinking this was a glamorous life because my family was working-class, I only knew about classes and books. No one told me about paperwork, though I believe they may not have told me because twenty years ago there wasn’t so much. Or someone else did it, not the senior teachers and researchers, I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine Harold Bloom filling in forms…

Every colleague has the same problem: applications for grants and new degrees, the up-keep of cv itself –that time-consuming monster–, research and teaching assessments… You name it!! All in user-unfriendly computer applications which, I very much suspect, already act as a filter for the less committed. Students know nothing about this and probably believe we teachers enjoy unstressed lives in paradise, just thinking of new, devious ways to make their lives harder. I wish!

Since paperwork is fast becoming another of the genres I practice, together with the academic essay, I do wonder who reads it. I have foggy Dickensian visions of armies of clerks wearing sleeve garters and green celluloid visors, reading the ‘literature’ we produce for them and I wonder why they ask for so much. Do they love it? Really? Do they read it? Really? What kind of person cannot see the beauty of the principle by which less is more?

Call me paranoid, but, is this part of a vast conspiracy to not let us employ our precious time in thinking, which is what we’re paid to do? Just a thought…

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