A good bloggy friend has recently been fighting a battle with an Administrator on a power trip. I won't go into details, but I can tell you that it's a ridiculous situation in which the Administrator is refusing to take the ten minutes required to correct a mistake, made by the Administrator, because it would be against the "administrative regulations".
Unfortunately there seems to have been a large increase in this kind of nonsense over the past decade or so. If you want to read about some truly egregious examples, check out Benjamin Ginsburg's "The Fall of the Faculty". While I don't necessarily agree with everything Ginsburg has to say, there are some truly startling stories and statistics in his book. Like universities with ~30 administrators and staff per 100 students. Really?
Now there are administrators and Administrators. The former are the good ones. People who see their jobs for what they should be - providing the means by which faculty and staff can further the mission of the institution. For research-intensive universities that would primarily be the creation and dissemination of knowledge. These people do exist. Trust me.
Then there are the Administrators. These are the people who use their positions within the administration to further the cause of... administration. Adminstrators who build empires doing, well, not a whole hell of a lot. I'm sure we all know some of these. Their goal seems largely, if not solely, to be to grab enough power and prestige to be able to move up the academic administration career ladder. These Administrators, aside from being a drain on limited financial resources*, can serve as a huge impediment to the institutional mission.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-administration. Just anti-Administrators.
Actually, let's screw with them.
How? Well, there are a number of things we can do.
1) Ask nonsensical questions that sound like they might be important for an Adminsitrator.
Administrators speak their own language - adminspeak. It is rife with nouns turned into verbs. Incentivize. Actionable. Use them. At the end of a presentation given by an Administrator, ask something like "How are you going to make this actionable in order to incentivize the stakeholders so that you can actualize the nominalization of the process?" Then sit back a watch the Administrator try to hide that look of panic.
This is such an easy one. Administrators do love their metrics. And we scientists do like our numbers to have statistical significance. Try asking an Administrator about p-values and samples sizes for a set of metrics. Even better, ask them about comparisons to a control group. Administrators never have control groups.
3) Sow dissension in the ranks.
Administrators are in it for the power and prestige. There are few things they hate more than finding out an Administrator of equal rank has gained more power and/or prestige than they have. Casually mention to Senior Associate Vice Assistant Deanling for X that you heard a rumor - mind you, it's just a rumor - that Senior Associate Vice Assistant Deanling for Y is getting a budget increase. Or is having the walls their office suite paneled in Sumatran teak - and it's not coming out of their budget. Sit back and enjoy the ensuing feud.
4) Fuel paranoia.
Administrators tend to be paranoid. They really, really fear the loss of power and prestige. This makes them such easy targets given the current economic situation. While enduring conversation with an Administrator, mention in passing that you heard a rumor - mind you, it's just a rumor - that there was a reorganization in the works that would see units such as the Administrator's absorbed into a larger unit controlled by a more powerful Administrator. This is particularly effective if the Administrator in question doesn't like the more powerful Administrator. Another option is to mumble something about impending budget cuts within the Adminstrator's unit.
Now remember, target Administrators, not administrators.
If you have any suggestions on other ways to screw with Administrators, post them in the comments.
* The national average is ~9 people in the administration per 100 students. Do we really need that many?