TITLE: Some Writing by Administrators Isn't Bad; It's Just Different AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 11, 2016 10:51 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Jim Garland is a physicist who eventually became president of Miami University of Ohio. In Bad Writing by Administrators, Rachel Toor asked Garland how his writing evolved as he moved up the administrative hierarchy. His response included:
Truthfully, I did my deepest thinking as a beginning assistant professor, writing obscure papers on the quantum-mechanical properties of solids at liquid-helium temperatures. Over the years, I became shallower and broader, and by the time I left academe, I was worrying about the seating arrangement of donors in the president's football box.
I have experienced this even in my short step into the department head's office. Some of the writing I do as head is better than my writing before: clear, succinct, and qualified precisely. It is written for a different audience, though, and within a much different political context. My colleagues compliment me occasionally for having written a simple, straightforward note that says something they've been struggling to articulate. Other times, my thinking is more muddled, and that shows through in what I write. When I try to fix the writing before I fix my thinking, I produce bad writing. Some writing by administrators really is bad, but a lot of it is simply broader and shallower than what we write as academics. The broader it becomes, the less interesting the content is to the academics still living inside of us. Yet our target audience often can appreciate the value of that less interesting writing when it serves its purpose. -----