Recently I read an article about the unwritten rules of baseball. In it, the author provides several examples of these rules:
- You don’t bunt the ball to break up a no-no (no hits made, no runs scored)
- You can expect to have someone on your team hit by a pitch if your pitcher intentionally hits someone on the other team
- You don’t steal a base in a game where your team is up by an insurmountable number of runs.
There are more examples in the article, but the general gist is that there are rules that are not in the official MLB rule book that are generally followed by most, if not all, of the players. And to fail to respect one of these rules means instantaneous attention from other players and outrage from many fans.
Now, most of us have jobs, and with them come job descriptions. But there’s always that ubiquitous “other duties as assigned” at the end of it. And never mind the “opportunities” that are presented to us that we opt to partake in because it falls into the realm of “professional development” whether it really develops us or not. In short, our job descriptions provide the rules, if you will, of how we do our jobs. But so much of what we do is either incompletely described or not listed at all.
So as I read the article, I began wondering about the unwritten rules of being a student affairs professional. A few that I could think of – or things that have been said to me – include:
- While most of our job descriptions include something like “requires some night and weekend work,” we all know that “some” is usually “lots of” and can be equated to 3-5 nights a week and 2-3 weekends a month in many cases.
- We don’t say “no” when asked to do or be involved with something – especially if it is directly related to the students with whom we most often work.
- We routinely go above and beyond to enhance the student experience on our campuses.
- Students are our deal, our jobs, our lives, our passions, our raison d’etre.
While I have some concerns about the efficacy of some of these (I, and others, have learned to say “no” and have worked to create more balance in our lives so that our office is just that (and not a second home)), in general I believe that these unwritten rules serve as the basis for our existence within our academic institutions. Further, I know that my failure to do any of these things (particularly the first three, and to acknowledge and fully appreciate the fourth) results in (a minor level of) outrage from my students.
To that end, what else do we do that isn’t reflected on paper?
As you develop them (and I encourage you to write them down, provide them as comments here, tweet about them, etc.), I challenge you to get them worked into your job description, or, at the very least, include them in your self-evaluation at the end of the term/academic year (however your institution does performance appraisals). Failing those two things, find ways to show the unwritten things that you do in your resume, vita, blog, or website. But write them down.
Unwritten rules have a way of being forgotten, not passed down, or simply ignored. For us to not have documentation of how we impacted the lives of students would be a travesty.
Write down the unwritten. Make your rules written.
Matt Pistilli coordinates evaluation and administration for Student Access, Transition and Success Programs at Purdue University.