Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hunkered Down in my Silo

Today is committee work day, oh joy. For one committee, I need to review some reviews in order to review the review process, so that we can revise the review process. The two reviews I needed to review were supposed to be available in a nice office across campus where we committee members could go read rather than killing trees to make additional copies. I headed over there a few minutes after 9am, only to find that the reviews weren't there, and the admin assistant had no idea what I was after, but searched the offices anyway, with the help of her boss. So she called the committee chair, and then one of the assistant headmaster types, reaching neither. A few more calls and by a few minutes after 10, I'd reached the committee chair and learned that he hadn't put the reviews out for review. In the meantime, I'd also learned that this office is only open in the mornings, so putting the review materials there wouldn't work for anyone who needed to read them in the afternoon.

So I went to his office, arriving a couple minutes later, and stood around for nearly half an hour while he dithered around making new copies, and trying to get a stapler to work (I convinced him that a binder clip would work, but not until he'd been trying the stapler for 5 minutes).

Time: 1 hour tracking down the review materials.
1.5 hours reading and taking notes about the review process.

Of course these materials have supposedly been available for two weeks, and we'll be discussing them early next week, and I'm apparently the first person who's gone to look for them. I don't predict a really great meeting next week.

I have to say, after reading about the disfunctionalities revealed in these reviews, I was really happy to come back to my relatively functional department and start in on my next task, a task onerous enough in and of itself, but also hopeful and necessary.

The one thing that really stood out to me today in reading these reviews was how hunkered we are in our silos, even when a bit of reorganization would make our lives a whole lot better. It's hard from our silos (think farm silos, not nuclear silos) to get a clear view of the university and how we can contribute, and it's really frustrating reading these reviews to see that. The thing is, it's easy for me to say, oh, that Underwater Basketweaving department, they just don't see how their work matters in the larger scale, or how they could contribute differently, and a whole different thing to see myself how my work in the English department, and in the lit part of the English department, and as a Shakespeare/early Brit person in the lit part of the English department fits. The good thing about this committee work, though, is that it reminds me to keep trying to see out my silo.


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  2. I don't know, Bardiac, farm silos can be fatal. I'll bet your students know people who have fallen in and died from the fumes before they could get pulled out...
    we all knew that in the small farm town I grew up in!

  3. J. I think the underwater basketweaving is fairly old, but not in classics terms! My grandfather used to use it.

    Timna, Oh, scary! I've heard of some manure deaths (fumes and a sort of drowning), but not silo deaths. Farming is dangerous, isn't it? Maybe that should make us all the more aware how dangerous our silos are!

  4. Anonymous9:29 AM

    Good gosh-a-mighty! Your administrator needs a spanking or something. Why ON EARTH did he not scan these documents to pdf and slap 'em up on Blackboard (if that's the campus LMS) instead of making people traipse across campus *at all*?

    My word verification is "preating," which with a very small change could become either preaching or prating, take your pick for what my comment was! Good luck next week.

  5. Anonymous8:54 AM

    I think file sharing via would have made your morning much easier.

  6. Just to clarify, we're talking about, say, four or five inches of papers, most double sided, and including graphs and charts printed landscape and regular. That's a huge scanning task for some student worker, and a massive pain for anyone reading for an hour and a half.

    We were reviewing the reviews, for ideas about how to make our process better, and not working with them to provide feedback or direction to the programs involved, so the level of reading was very different; I read some bits carefully, and some not at all. But a student worker would have a hard time discriminating between what I found helpful to read and what I skipped over without fairly intensive supervision.