And Other Duties as Assigned: What Even the Fine Print Doesn’t Tell You

In the mid-to-late-1950s, prisoners arriving at the federal penitentiary on Alcatraz were given a typewritten booklet that they were required to keep in their cells. Reflecting the correctional philosophy of that period’s warden, Paul J. Madigan, this work, The Regulations for Inmates, consisted of 28 rules governing such activities as the daily routine, permissible types of recreation, and specific items to be regarded as contraband. Rule #21 begins: “You are required to work at whatever you are told to do.” That type of “contract” language is likely to seem quite familiar to higher education administrators whose job descriptions typically end with the phrase “… and other duties as assigned” or, to paraphrase, “You are required to work at whatever you are told to do.”  But how do academic leaders adequately fulfill their duties when even the fine print often doesn’t tell what those duties are?

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