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A Matter of Good Form

Leadership and Management

A Matter of Good Form

That paperless academic environment we’ve been promised for the past few decades never quite seems to arrive. Each year, academic leaders find themselves inundated with more and more forms. Although many of these can now be completed online, a surprising amount of paperwork that has to be completed by hand still crosses our desks.

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That paperless academic environment we’ve been promised for the past few decades never quite seems to arrive. Each year, academic leaders find themselves inundated with more and more forms. Although many of these can now be completed online, a surprising amount of paperwork that has to be completed by hand still crosses our desks. Every week seems to bring a new form, many of them seemingly created by people without much design skill who haven’t given a great deal of thought to the person who’s going to be completing the document. With that in mind, therefore, I thought it would be worthwhile to articulate a few general principles of etiquette that we might adopt whenever we’re adding to the stack of forms we expect those at our institutions to complete. 

Guidelines for printed forms

Guidelines for electronic forms

Forms of various kinds are likely to be with us as long as higher education exists. But if each of us takes greater care to improve the design of the forms we’re responsible for, we’ll end up getting better information and producing fewer frazzled members of the faculty and staff. 

Jeffrey L. Buller is dean of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University and senior partner in ATLAS: Academic Training, Leadership & Assessment Services. His latest book, the second edition of The Essential Academic Dean or Provost: A Comprehensive Desk Reference, is available from Jossey-Bass.