Friday, April 16, 2010

Cluster Headache

We're trying to inaugurate a new general education system. It's going to start in a very small way next year, at least that's the plan. We got an email about a week ago, suggesting that a call for proposals would be forthcoming soon, and if we were interested, we shoul start thinking about it.

The idea is that students are going to take a group of classes meaningfully clustered together.

During the planning stages, all the clusters I've heard about are all very focused on modern issues: Sustainability! STEM! You get the idea. I don't really feel like I fit any of them, so rather than just whine, I decided to email everyone I could think of who might like really dead guys and see what we can do about putting together a cluster of classes about historical/cultural stuff. Because otherwise, you KNOW we English department folks are going to be asked to contribute by teaching a "writing about sustainability" course. And while I think sustainability is important, I want to teach my really dead guys.

So, I sent out email to a bunch of folks. And folks are busy, and overwhelmed, and no one knows what the heck is up with things, so I got a few responses. And I chatted with some people and got some responses.

Which is to say, I've emailed with probably 20 faculty, including the administrator who sent out the warning, my chair, another chair.

So today, we got the real proposals information and deadline (they gave us three weeks!). And saw, for the first time, that there's been a big set up over in the Fort Section where we're supposed to get help with teaching (the email had a link). They've had workshops on setting up bundles!

I apparently missed this information. And so, apparently did the chairs, administrator, and other faculty I've been emailing with. At least none of them mentioned to me that there was this site set up. And I don't think it's because people hate me or anything; I think it's because the people I'm in touch with didn't know or think about it.

But I'm guessing the STEM folks got personal, engraved invitations. Okay, maybe not, but I bet if I get on the computer board thing, I'm going to see a lot of names of men who drink on the right porches.

Sometimes, I really hate our administration.


Edited to add the latest information: I'm told that a colleague was in a meeting with the administrator who has the final word on the cluster proposals and the administrator there said s/he'd basically already chosen the clusters for next year, and that no, English was NOT included.

Feeling the love, feeling the love. The proposal date isn't until mid-May, but they've already been chosen. Hmmm.

I may be drinking on the wrong porch, but I definitely feel like drinking tonight.


  1. Well, of course, writing (and history and suchlike stuff) is EASY and you can certainly find something to support these important initiatives. And it's not like you have labs or real research agendas or stuff to worry about disrupting whereas these other guys, well, they're doing important stuff that needs to be respected.

    *headdesk* You have my sympathies!

  2. i'd be pretty pissed at this point. if the objective is cross-discipline clusters to cover sets of gen ed requirements, it really needs to have many disciplines involved with the whole deal.

    first, i think you and your group should complain loudly about exclusion from the initial processes.

    and next, of course, y'all need to pull together why it is important you be included in the planning, and not at late dates. you have more to give than filling someone else's agenda, right? a broad liberal arts education is really abotu teaching students to think, teaching them about multiple disciplines and how they do their work, and about ideas that have endured over time -- the original messages in context, how they have influenced modern things, developments of thought from there. and so on, this is off the top and i'm not an academic.

    but i do actually feel passionately about multi-disciplinary studies. my freshman year was spent in a full-year integrated program designed to meet the gen ed requirements, organized by "topics" but drawing in material from many academic disciplines. it was absolutely wonderful; life-changing, even.

  3. That's classic, isn't it? Our gen ed requirements have all these broad ideas and the one thing they don't have as a concept is time.... as a historian, it makes me nuts.

  4. Oy.

    If misery loves company, it might make you feel better (well, probably not) to know that I could have written this post. Your president and my president probably drink on each other's porches.

  5. were it not for the fact that the gen ed proposal currently circulating at my u does not involve bundles, I'd be thinking that we must be colleagues. My admin similarly makes decisions in advance of announced deadlines, and it's so toxic to the overall climate for projects (like gen ed) that really could be run in ways that enhance the overall environment.

  6. They did this cluster(f**k) thing to us too. In some ways I can see it's a good idea (in theory), but in reality what it meant was that they split linguistics into tiny splinters, which was already two separate areas (a teaching dept in the Faculty of fArts and a research dept in the Research School of sPacific an dAsian Studies (just trying to make things ungoogleable here). So now we have a bunch of linguists in the Languages and Cultures cluster, and all the rest split among geographical clusters, e.g. a Papuan cluster, an Indonesian cluster, etc.

    We also somehow ended up with two distinct groups with almost the same name: one is called "Linguistics Languages and Cultures (LLC)", and the other is called "Culture, History and Language (CHL)" No, I don't know how they assigned people to each cluster. Random flip of the coin, I think.