Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just Another Brick

I got a polite email the other day from a student asking to be overloaded into a class that's already overloaded. I politely said that I couldn't further overload the class.

From the teaching point of view, it's perfectly reasonable not to overload the class further. (I figure one or two students will drop to bring the load to reasonable levels with the current overload.)

I'm betting from the student's point of view, I'm just another brick in the wall of hoop jumping to finish the degree, though.

We all have fantasies that help us get through the day. One of mine is that I actually do meaningful work, make connections with students and colleagues, and make a positive difference on an individual level. Maybe sometimes I do, but sometimes, it's just an enabling fantasy, a fantasy that helps me stand in front of a class and try day after day, a fantasy that keeps me behaving with minimal composure at most meetings I go to.

One of the results of the budget crisis here, the furloughs, and the general pain is that it's harder to pretend my fantasy isn't just a fantasy. The crisis and the way the state and university are dealing with it make it clear that we faculty folks are really just bricks to be thrown around, to be mortared together here and there in some shape that pleases somebody with more power, who themselves feels like a brick being thrown or mortared or remaindered.

I really don't like feeling like just another brick.


  1. Now I can tell you what would have happened where I used to work. The student would have complained and I would have been told to take her in (it would have been my final year Children's Literature class - always over subscribed) UNLESS taking another student put me over 40. If it did the agreement our union had with management was that that would then count as two classes against my workload. If that had been the case she would have been sent away with a flea in her ear. As you say, just another brick.

  2. Reminds me of what the Catholic priests would say when the mothers would come in upset that they were pregnant again ...

    "If you can feed 5, you can feed 6..."

    And the next year

    "If you can feed 6 , you can feed 7..."

  3. The problem is that you are the visible brick -- not the budget decisions that limit hte number of faculty hires, courses, etc.