A little over a month ago, the director of the school of journalism at the University of South Carolina, Carol J. Pardun, announced in The Chronicle of Higher Education that she was walking away from her administrative responsibilities in order to “resurrect [her] scholarly life as a tenured professor.” Don’t get Pardun wrong; hers appears not to be a case of burnout. After all, “she really do[es] love being an administrator” and “like[s] to lead”–and has a vast eight years of bureaucratic experience at the director’s level to prove it.
As she bids farewell to her tertiary rung on the administrative ladder, Pardun waxes eloquent about why she’s just so darn good at mid-level management. Says she:
- I like a challenge. I like to solve problems.
- People had been telling me for years that I would be a great administrator.
- Several search firms, search committees, and faculty members have approached me to apply for various positions as dean and even provost.
- All the leadership workshops I’ve been a part of over the years have clearly indicated that I have a future in administration.
- I relished my time on the university’s enrollment-management committee, and I couldn’t wait for the monthly meetings of the faculty council.
Although she does not explain why she is leaving a position she “loves,” she does express her heartbreak at the loss of future promotions. “I am career focused,” she asserts, confessing her expectation that she
always thought [she] would be a dean for a few years and then eventually end up as a provost.
Why, why must academic administration at the University of South Carolina lose the services of the talented and ambitious director of its journalism program in exchange for what Pardun grimly describes as “a return to the faculty and a second-wind research career.”
Although we do not know the answer to this question, we do know that Pardun set very high standards for an upward move to another campus. Standards that in the end exstinquished the flame of ambition that once burned so brightly within her bosom:
I discovered that there are only a few places that meet all my criteria for where I’m willing to work: flagship university, mild weather, appropriate water for sailing and rowing. Over the years, only two such opportunities have presented themselves, and for various reasons, they didn’t work out.
Haven’t we all been there? Who among us has not abandoned a dream in order to settle for a tenured job that will give us all the free time we need for water sports?
My critics tell me that I am too harsh in my critique of tenured faculty, that I do not understand them. They are correct. I do not.