Becoming “The Man”

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I have, officially, become “The Man.”  Of course, as a writing program administrator I was in many ways already “The Man.”  In fact, I tell new teachers in our program to use that to their advantage, to ally themselves with students against me (“Yeah, I hate this essay too but our mean writing program director is making us use it so I’m going to do my best to help you all survive it.”) But now I am a whole new level of “Man”.  Now I am the Coordinator for Credentialing, Assessment, and Interdisciplinarity—an adjunctive functionary of the dean’s office tasked with making sure people who teach are qualified to do so (according to a strictly literal interpretation of our accrediting body’s guidelines), figuring out what assessment means for our college and helping departments to enact it, and shepherding a diverse collection of interdisciplinary programs in our college.  Wow.  I mean I can’t even talk about the position in non-institutionalese. One of the things that strikes me about the position is that it’s an odd assortment of tasks (what does credentialing have to do with interdisciplinarity?), yet at the same time the near random coupling of it all feels right in a bureaucratic sense.  My motto has been, for some time, “embrace the illogic”; this position merely confirms that as the path to sanity. On the one hand I’m thrilled.  I enjoy administration.  It’s why I’m a WPA.  And I enjoy it too because one of my primary research interests is the institution itself.  What better way to understand it than to be swallowed by it whole? On the other hand, I’m uneasy. It’s more work and a WPA is, by definition, a busy person to start with.  And it’s unpleasant work.  I’m a cat herder, sending out frequent and carefully worded emails to chairs to get this or that done.  I’m the sheriff, dropping the boom on some unsuspecting professor who is not precisely credentialed to teach such and such course. Ultimately, I am hoping to unravel more of the Gordian knot that is the institution.  I hope to be sharing what I learn here, so stay tuned (and, please, wish me luck).
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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.