Random Advice

Gildor: “That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: “Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.” The choice is yours: to go or wait.”

Frodo: “And it is also said, ‘Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.'”The Fellowship of the Ring,Three is Company

I offer free advice to leaders, and those purporting to be, in (or of) higher education.

1) The legislative remedy you receive will most likely not be the one you requested. The result’s semblance to the request is strongly related to the number of people involved. Unfortunately, the direction of the correlation varies based on a multitude of factors. For example, a bill to give greater autonomy is all too likely to end up with greater intrusion than you imagine and much less autonomy than desired.

2) In a similar vein, be careful in your data requests. Such requests to public agencies are often subject to “Sunshine” or Freedom of Information laws, or more importantly, the data provider may wish to treat all institutions fairly and publish the data for everyone. This may not be your intent. It also may not be in your best interests, especially if the data are contrary to your expectations.

3) Unless you are an undergraduate working at three o’clock in the morning to write a research paper at the last moment for an eight a.m. class, research does not consist of running queries to generate cherry-picked data points that support your opinion of a proposal you haven’t actually read. In any event, you should have left that behavior in middle school.

4) Despite their imperfections, movies like Heavy Metal, Hooper, and Speed Racer provide excellent aural and video wallpaper for complex analytics and probably add more value than a weekly cabinet meeting.

5) If you haven’t read enough William Gibson, you probably have no idea how data reveals who you are and what you have done, even when you think the data are not about you.

6) The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is not the authorizing law for institutional privacy.

7) Every time one of your own suggests that some institutions might intentionally underperform on one measure rather than improve on its companion measure, sad laughter rings out and is muffled in the cubicle farm as another check-mark is made.

8) Any sentence beginning, “You might consider…” is either a direct hint or plot element to allow the (alert) hero to escape in the final scene. It is almost never  just “advice.”

9) If you were offended by the comparison I made here, congratulations on your ability to read for comprehension.

10) If you are wondering how much of this is meant as honest advice instead of snarky sarcasm, I’m sorry that I can’t help you more.


Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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