University Politics are so Vicious Precisely Because the Stakes are so Small

I’ve had several discussions this week about the unique challenges of managing a college or university web site. Sometimes it is easy to get totally consumed with campus politics. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Kissinger “University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small”. I’ve made this quote into a poster which I pull out and put on my wall when I need a friendly reminder to rise above the politics.

So my advise is to understand the culture of higher education. Universities are devolved organizations, with individual schools and departments operating with a great deal of autonomy. Don’t waste energy fighting this culture, but learn how to work within it.



  1. Amen!

  2. I’m going to make my own poster of the Kissinger quote and hang it on my door. As an administrator, I feel comforted by the blog post.

  3. I relayed that quote to my colleagues during our last staff meeting. Nobody said anything in response…you could have heard a pin drop.

  4. I’ve really come to appreciate the significance of Kissinger’s quote over the years. Never was it more relevant for me than during the past year, when our campus went through a name change. Another quote that seems pertinent to education — and to many other institutions these days — is this one from Roger von Oech that I linked to yesterday:

    “In a world that is continually changing, every right idea is eventually the wrong one.”

  5. Thanks for this. I first heard that quote attributed to Woodrow Wilson, not Kissinger. I first heard the reference in a New York times article in which Dick Army, a US Congressman was being interviewed. He was asked “You’re a former economics professor. Compare teaching to politics.” His response: “Here you’re working with a more pleasant group of people. There isn’t the petty meanness in Congress that you find in university politics.”


  1. Observations From Left Field - The peril of silo thinking in university life... One of the biggest frustrations of working in higher education is the false …