Monday, August 09, 2010

Trickle Down

I got a call today, asking me if I were interested in doing X interim job for the department if the person currently doing X job decides to do Y interim job, which has been requested because the person who was doing Y has accepted an offer to do Z, which was only settled at the last minute.

Z is pretty much a decision made way high up in the NWU structure. Y is a decision made at the midlevel of the structure. X is a departmental decision, but if I do X, which involves a course release, then the high up decision will trickle down to benefit an adjunct who will get offered another course.

The problem is, the Z decision should have been made way back in the spring term, but it wasn't. And everyone knew that the Y job would need to be filled if the Z decision were made, but no one could be asked to prepare for it on the off chance. And so on, and so forth.

So when I got the call today, I knew it had to be one of two possible requests (because we're just that poor at decision-making around here). And the one request pretty much means the other won't happen. Either or none is fine for me. (And the other is something that depends on a Y level decision; that decision should also have been made in the spring.)

At the Z level, the delay in decision isn't really that big a deal (as I understand it). The Z level folks know what they're doing and can step right in. At the Y level, it means the Y person (should s/he decide to accept that) has to move into a new area of responsibility and be up and running, so to speak, within a very short amount of time. And for me, the X decision would mean I have to get up to speed on a new role very quickly.

It also means that I'd have a course release. But, there's a rub, because I've spent a good bit of time this summer prepping two new course iterations, and a second go at a seminar. There's no one else qualified to teach the seminar, so someone else (an adjunct) would be asked to teach one of my other courses (hopefully it's someone who's taught the course recently, so there's not much prep involved).

But the trickle down will also hit the bookstore, because suddenly they'll have a bunch of unwanted books I've ordered and have to get hold of the new person's book choices quickly.

These are decisions that should have been made back in the spring semester. I don't know why they weren't. Everyone (even me) knew they needed to be made, knew funding had been allocated, and so forth. But the administrators who need to make the decisions have become notorious for being slow at making decisions.

The brunt of the problem here falls to the person who will step into interim Y and his/her chair, to my chair, to whatever adjunct(s) are offered our courses, and to me. The administrators responsible for making timely decisions just go on their merry way, apparently unaware (or uncaring) that their slowness causes problems for multiple people down the line.

For me, it will be a learning situation, and that's always good. The course release will help. And I think I can do a good job at it. But, of course, the decision at the Y level hasn't quite been made, so I haven't officially been asked to do X. So I can't stop preparing my courses, even now. (It's not quite clear which of the two courses I'd be released from in each semester.)

For the chair(s), it's a matter of finding adjuncts who are qualified and interested, and not already scheduled at those times. We don't have lots of well-qualified adjuncts hanging around our neck of the woods, though, so that's not nearly as easy as it would be if we were in a more urban area.

Somewhere out there is a moose with a muffin hoping for some jam. You and I both know it's true.


  1. Well, Bard, I had a long comment but Blogger ate it.

    Basically it said: same thing happened to me, last week, same problem (course we chose to release me from is one many adjuncts could teach, yet still no adjunct on the horizon for similar reasons as your neck of the woods). And yes, when we do find an adjunct (or overload a current adjunct) they are stuck with the books I chose: the saving grace, I hope, is that I will hand over my syllabus, assignments, etc.

    Good luck with your new responsibilities, Bardiac, and the whole last minute changes...

  2. oh, dear lordy. i don't know your school's schedule, but my daughter's school starts later in september, and i would think that anyone trying to take over someone else's class mere weeks before launch-time would want to have some prep time. most schools start earlier than daughter's, so the schedule would be pressing even w/o the need to find someone who can do the class.

    my work is different, but i've stepped in plenty of times at the last minute. we call that "crisis work." the reason it's an emergency is that an outside force made it be so. it's got to be galling when "your team" just didn't get it together.

  3. And this is why I'm soooooo happy to no longer be a department chair. Finding and retaining qualified adjunct instructors is difficult in our neck of the woods too.

    I would say congratulations on your new position, but I'll wait until you can officially hoist the Mission Accomplished banner.