To the Editor:
I retired in 2014 after a long career as a vice chancellor of student affairs at a smaller regional public. I had six units reporting to me each headed by a director and two to three support staff. There was no career ladder for any of my directors other than horizontal moves — but they knew this and I did my best to reward them in other ways. I think the recent essay, “Higher Ed Is a Land of Dead-End Jobs” (The Chronicle Review, December 2), should have added the dimension — “eyes wide open” regarding the work structure of higher ed. A good manager upon making a hire will do well to guide a new employee on the “management of expectations.”
Higher ed is not the corporate sector where the path for advancement is usually delineated. I know few university (admin) divisions/departments that have enough vertical positions where one can periodically advance and eventually get to the top. An acquaintance who works for a major U.S. corporation was told at entry that he would be exposed to a variety of positions in his early years and on a timetable receive a new assignment all with the intent of “grooming” for the top. The caveat is that when he gets to the top, there is only one seat and if he doesn’t get it, he’s out. I don’t think the college personnel commenting on their career (for this article) want to be a part of a system just described.
In short, the article, though factual, neglected to emphasize the point that higher ed is not a structure with org-chart career ladders; the larger question may be — how well does this serve the institution?
Former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Indiana University at Kokomo