David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
More Fun In The New Job Posting World

April 3, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I had fun analyzing a job posting for an Executive Director For Male Contraception Initiative.  This week I again dipped into the postings at Inside Higher Ed looking for something to mock.  What can I say? It's what I do.  And, no, friends and colleagues at SMC, I am not looking for other career opportunities (I am sure everyone would understand that if I was doing that, I certainly wouldn't be announcing it publicly at this point).

It's just that with higher education so depressingly boring, and basically perpetuating the same old tired public image it has for years, I need to plumb job postings to find new things to satirize.  And that is what I found today, originating out of all places, the very respectable University of Chicago.  They are advertising for an Executive Director of Provost Communications.

Take a moment to let that sink in on many levels:  First, how inarticulate is the Provost that he or she can't communicate for himself or herself?  Many universities have abandoned the academic realm in hiring their Presidents; surely they still look for respectable academics to fill their Provost positions, right?  And those scholars clearly are trained in being good communicators. Oh, wait, never mind.  Academia is the world where bored computer programmers randomly generated nonsensical science journal articles that were published. Scratch concern #1.

How big of a staff, then, does an institution have if they have to have an Executive Director of Provost Communications?  Sheesh, isn't a director enough to put out meaningless sound bites from the Chief Academic Officer?  Perhaps the "Executive" is needed to reflect the level of work this director has to do, as opposed, for instance, to a regular old Director of Student Life Communications, or even the Coordinator of Janitorial Communications. Besides the adjective "Executive" is hardly honorific here, as it still reports to the "Deputy Provost." I'm picturing Barney Fife, Ed.D.

But it gets worse.  At least the Deputy Provost is identified as an actual person. The University of Chicago may not even have a Provost, or a President, for that matter, as the posting speaks entirely of working for and with offices, or for generic leadership.

"the Executive Director will focus on strategic messaging for Provost Office priorities and will work closely with both Provost Office and University leadership. An ideal candidate for this role will be an excellent writer who can easily and quickly develop clear and impactful communications on myriad topics for numerous internal and external audiences. This individual will work alongside the University's Office of Communications to ensure that all communications for the Office of the Provost are coordinated and streamlined with broader communications efforts across the University of Chicago. In addition, this person will play an integral role in developing systems for and executing Provost Office communications." (my emphasis throughout)

This lack of an actual Provost might bring sense to all of this nonsense.  With no one person to actually determine the communications coming from his or her mouth (or hand), Chicago has to look for candidates who can "develop and implement a communications strategy for the Office of the Provost" ("Our strategy is to always lead with the view out of our window; at no time, mention the ratty carpet or the burnt out light bulbs.").  Later the posting emphasizes the responsibility to identify and understand "Provost Office priorities and high-profile topics" ("look that carpet has to go").  I could go on, but I will respect the sanctity of offices everywhere by stopping the denigration of perfectly fine work spaces.

The completely un-funny part about this posting is that all of this speaks to the complexities of the University of Chicago. As both a Provost and a Vice-President of Instruction in my career, I have always operated out of at best a two-person office (administrative assistant as the only support). I can only imagine the layers of bureacracy, the volume of meetings, the inundation of messaging that must come out of a Provost's office that has minimally three people, Deputy Fife, the yet-hired ED of PC (surely they had thought out the acronym), and the formless Provost.  My guess is there are up to a half dozen Associate Provosts, several administrative assistants, a faculty liaison and a hairdresser all also on staff. Heck it's not an Office of the Provost, it's the Village of the Provost.

Note, that if you want to go work there, you don't have to pass a drug test.  Getting a little stoked on the weekends may help you with this job.