The range and expertise of professional staff in a modern university are astonishing. Our expertise makes us almost a mini-public service, with unique intersection between the activities of research and education, advanced technological and clinical/lab skills, and a fundamental commitment to students and their needs and hopes, which grounds the whole enterprise.
“Above all, professionals at university lead through their service – and serve through their leadership.”
The Catholic university is a place of knowledge but also of demanding and rewarding work. As we learned through 2020 when work continued but community was impeded, our professional work is not purely task-based but contains a crucial social dimension. Professional staff share with academics the responsibility not simply to complete work tasks but to complete community and to help form each other with knowledge and skill from outside our own areas.
In the next few instalments of this series I want to consider the general principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae as they apply to different groups of professional staff, or as the document has it to ‘directors and administrators’. What principles matter most here?
Above all, professionals at university lead through their service – and serve through their leadership. Everyone agrees universities are bodies of scholars seeking knowledge and truth, and that remains forefront. But underpinning this ‘collegiate’ existence is a vast business enterprise. It could have ended up the case that professional staff within the business were regarded as subordinate, servants of the academic community; but in no university I have worked at is that the case. Instead, modern universities aim to create a culture in which academics are served by those who are also leaders in their fields and so receive in turn the respect of the academics.
This is a subtle balance and it can be lost, and in individual and regrettable cases no doubt is lost. But it is a balance we should commit to and work at.