A community college dean who blogs anonymously at Inside Higher Ed has weighed in on the faculty suspensions at California’s Southwestern College, and his piece is definitely required reading.

“Dean Dad,” as he styles himself, is not a fan of campus protesters. “People who don’t deal with budgets for a living often don’t understand the constraints within them,” he writes, and too frequently “leap to the moral high ground and start passing judgments, loudly and publicly, based on misinformation.”

That said, he notes that when you’re a college administrator, dealing with such criticism — fair or unfair — is part of your job. And there are a bunch of ways you can do it:

You can work together with your critics to lobby for more government aid. You can bring those critics to the table and ask them for concrete recommendations. You can divide them. You can co-opt them. You can ignore them. You can conduct a PR blitz. (He takes a couple of sentences to describe each of these options, and as I said above it’s all well worth reading.)

Finally, he says, you can adopt the strategy that SWC president Raj Chopra has apparently chosen. You can “do your best imitation of Dr. Evil, go out on limbs that will be sawed off quickly in court, and make yourself look like an idiot in public.”

Again, DD is no friend of Chopra’s critics. He’s writing from the premise that Chopra’s position on the budget is reasonable, and that his student and faculty antagonists are unreasonable and ill-informed. And he still thinks Chopra is acting like a grade-A clod.

The title of DD’s piece is “Power 101.” He’s not concerned with whether Chopra had a technical legal right to authorize the suspensions, or what specifically happened on campus last Thursday. He doesn’t care, because those questions aren’t questions Chopra should have been asking.

A college like Southwestern is an institution, embedded in a network of other institutions — state government, unions, student groups, advocacy groups, non-profits, businesses, media. If you’re looking to transform an institution like that, or you’re hoping to thwart someone else’s attempts to transform it, you need to understand power. You need to understand the response that your actions will provoke, and the effect of that response on your position.

A leader of the ANC in South Africa once chastised a reporter who was trying to understand the long-term strategy of the apartheid government with regard to Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. “You’re thinking like a chess player,” he said. “They play checkers.”

Most college and university administrators in the 21st century are adept chess players.

Raj Chopra plays checkers.