First, Kill All the Administrators by Stanley Fish

Article Info

Title: First, Kill All the Administrators
Author(s): Stanley Fish
Publisher: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Publishing Date: March 21, 2003


First, kill all the admin...wait, what? Stanley Fish's article First, Kill All the Administrators definitely succeeded at getting my attention when I first read it on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. I stumbled upon this article quite late - it was first published in 2003 - but I think Fish makes some points that are still relevant today. 

So, Fish asks, what do we need administrators for anyway? To some extent, scholars of educational administration are still concerned with rationalizing their role in the school system. I read on - curious to about what points the author would raise (another part of me, also wanting to justify my own career choice). Fish makes an important statement, which I had never before considered when he suggests that administrators "play a crucial role in the psychological economy of faculty members who wish to avoid responsibilities for their own failures". A strong statement - but I agree that blaming administration appears to be a common past-time among faculty. Fish goes on to argue that the heart of administration is actually an "intellectual task" as we are concerned quite often with "problems of coordination that require calculations of incredible delicacy made in relation to numerous (and sometimes potentially conflicting) institutional goals and obligations". We must look through piles of data and make difficult decisions, only hoping that we disappoint the right people. 

Ultimately, administrators exist to administer policy and follow procedures, and cannot possibly make everyone happy as they are put in place to lead the university and to make decisions for the common good. Are administrators always popular because of these decisions? Absolutely not. But Fish makes a further point, which I could not agree with more when he states that without administrators, there would be no class schedules, no Registrar's Office, no budget office, tenure process, or facilities management, resulting in no registration of students, no security of employment, no classes to teach in, and no money available for equipment, travel, lectures, and teaching awards. The larger and more complex an institution, the more administrators are required to help manage these tasks to not only support teachers, but also to ensure that the university is profitable and can function from year-to-year.

Commentary & Views

There is no university without administration, but there is also no university without teachers and students.They are all integral parts of the university, which is a system of knowledge. Though some may disagree that administration is vital for the functioning of the university, without administrators, teachers would never have time to focus on their interactions with students and individual research. While I have my own thoughts about the importance of educational administrators also being academics when they work in a university, I think that administrators play a crucial role by performing many of the tedious, business-oriented tasks that teachers would prefer not to do. Hate them or love them, administrators are necessary for running a university, and provide vital support functions that, if suddenly taken away, would cause chaos and disorganization that today's universities cannot afford.

C. Valentine