In different settings people use the phrase “two sides of the house”.
When you hear this relative to a university the subject is the idea that there are academic issues, and everything else is “the other side of the house”. Academics and finance, administration, student affairs, development, maintenance, athletics, clerical and technical staff, and in general the human and physical infrastructure that keeps the university moving.
There is one house from my perspective, and everyone in it toils to the same end, academic excellence. I have the privilege of working with a group of faculty and staff and find very few who don’t recognize that there is one house with one purpose, and no sides.
In a former life there was an administrative assistant, if that was the correct title I am not sure, but she happened to run a department of over 800 students and fifty faculty members, even though people thought the chair did. I will call her Jane Doe. She worked with students, faculty, the central administration, the building service workers, the grounds workers who tended the building and everyone and everything that had to do with keeping the place afloat.
There was only one small problem with Jane…she was from the “other side of the house”. The people who would raise this point were not the sharpest of the lot, rather they were the title driven ones who felt special not by ability or opportunity, but by degree or position. These are always the ones that like to talk about the “other side of the house”. They used it to devalue her opinion when their intellect and ability fell short, and did it with such skill and acumen that only a pro would know.
Thankfully these home splitters are few and far between, but they are there and they diminish the purpose of our university.
I bumped into a student at a professional meeting about 15 years after he graduated. He was an excellent student, had a mind like a steel trap, a high GPA an excellent record in graduate school, and was in the middle of a highly successful career as an architect, a leader in the state and accomplished in his firms work.
He didn’t ask me about any of the design faculty who had helped him become a first rate designer, and he knew they did, as he was an excellent student that appreciated the faculty. He did not ask me about the department chair at the time and whether he was still there. He did not ask me about any of his classmates, many who were achieving similar levels of success in the paths of labor they chose.
He asked me about Mrs. Doe. Is she still there? He inquired. How was she doing? Did she still help the AIAS, the student chapter of the American Institute of Architects? Did she still assist in organizing events in the department? Was she able to continue to keep Bill in line, a professor who at times was tough to deal with? And on he went.
This fellow knew there was a house with one purpose, not two sides, and Mrs. Doe, regardless of her position was right in the middle of the house, and its purpose.
I am thankful to work at Our University where over 5,000 people, many Jane and John Does’, working every day to support academic excellence.