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Unleashed VC is a blog's best friend

By Steven Schwartz - posted Monday, 18 August 2008


"The university is top-heavy with management. Countless hours are wasted with paperwork, with attending mind-numbing training sessions on this, that or the other, and on seminars which for the most part are a complete waste of time."

"More could be done to make the toilets and urinals more efficient. In our building we often find the urinals run constantly, or two flush simultaneously when the button is pressed."

"The university should strive to enforce the 'non-smoking' regulations on campus more effectively. People are still smoking. They are annoying me."

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"I am sharing (a) room with others in an award-winning building. The air-con does not work when the temp is 'comfortable' and there is only one power button for 18 lights!"

"Something simply HAS to be done about our current email system - it is just SO unreliable."

One episode of The West Wing, the much-admired television show, featured a sub-plot in which the character Josh Lyman finds out about a blog dedicated to his activities.

Despite his assistant's warnings, Lyman starts to participate, only to find that blogging can be a contact sport. When he complains, press secretary C.J. Cregg, sets him straight: "Let me explain something to you ... The people on these sites, they're the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ... I'm telling you to open the ward room window and climb on out before they give you a pre-frontal lobotomy and I have to smother you with a pillow."

Blogging is not recommended for any university vice-chancellor with a sensitive disposition (if such a creature exists). If you can't take a joke, or an insult, being corrected, having your failings and those of your institution pointed out to you and having your carefully constructed arguments demolished ... well, just don't do it.

But as Rudyard Kipling might have advised, if you can trust yourself when people doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too, then go ahead, because you will find that for all its potential for pitfalls and pratfalls, the blogosphere is a great place for a university leader to test ideas, to engage in discussion and debate, to stand corrected or to correct others.

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It doesn't absolve us from making decisions, but it gives us more ideas to feed into those decisions.

In short, the blogosphere at its best is what universities should be about anyway: the free exchange of ideas, opinions and information.

Of course, it's not all about the big ideas. You soon get to know which toilets and airconditioners aren't working properly, and where the no-smoking rules are being flouted.

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First published in The Australian Higher Education Supplement on August 13, 2008.



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About the Author

Steven Schwartz is a former vice-chancellor of Macquarie University.

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