Monday, October 28, 2013

Chewed Up

I'm feeling a bit chewed over by the semester.  I don't think I'm the only one, either.

I was chatting with a colleague this morning, someone who's been in our department fairly long.  We were both in by about 7:30, as is our wont, and he commented that it used to be that folks would come into the department by 7 am.  And he named a couple of the folks that used to show up early, and then said that they'd all go have coffee in the coffee room, and hang out.  And we realized that there are probably about the same numbers of people in early (though not at 7am) now, but that we all go to our offices and work there.

And the lunch room used to be a busy place at lunch, but now people go in to nuke something or get hot water or coffee, and then leave.

I think we've sort of collectively found that we have more work to do, and that the time we've found to do it used to be more relaxed social time.  So now, instead of going and having a cup of coffee with colleagues to start the day, we get the coffee and go work in our individual offices.  And we have lunch working at our desks instead of chatting in the lunch room.

I wonder how else the social life of the department has changed?

This is a department which had female chairs in the 60s, and a fair number of female colleagues since then, though we're now at a close to 50% balance.  So I don't think the gender numbers have changed drastically.  And I know that a lot of the women who were here then had families, and some didn't, so that hasn't changed.

I think most of the men then had wives who worked outside the home, as they do today.  But I think today and then the wives do most of the cooking and childcare (at least going by what both male and female colleagues and friends say about their lives).

Racially, I think we're a more diverse department than we were 15 or more years ago.

I think there are folks in the department who socialized outside the department (that is, at homes, in the evening or on weekends) about the same as before, but I think we socialize less within the department, less chatting over coffee in the mornings, or over lunch, or over coffee again later in the day.

I wonder, do people work from home more than they used to?  (That is, does someone not come in and have lunch here because they're at home until almost time for classes?)

I think we have about the same numbers of adjuncts as we had 15 or so years ago, though we have fewer TT faculty.  And partly we have even fewer TT faculty because we have a lot of people who are partially reassigned to administrative tasks.  Now, some of those administrative tasks are GREAT and way important, but it means that others have to do more work.  So, for example, we have two TT faculty who are more than 50% time as program leaders outside this department, so they don't serve on our personnel committee, which means we have fewer people to do the personnel work.  And greater "accountability" means that there's more personnel work to get done.


  1. Part of this is the way that technology can reach us all of the time. Do you remember when you'd have to dial up to the internet? When files would slowly upload and download at so many hundred baud? When we'd only see the new journals on the shelves quarterly at the library or interesting articles listed in the field bibliography once a year? Now it's always there, waiting, and you're so far behind all of the time!

    The other part has to be the accountability, I agree. All of the forms, all of the reporting, all of the requirements to show how we're complying with various offices and plans and procedures. . . .

  2. If you have fewer TT faculty and more administrative tasks, then you're doing more work with the same 24 hours you've always had. It makes sense that people are skipping out on what used to be valued. But it also sucks. If it weren't for my colleagues in other departments, I'd have no community here, basically.

    And PS - I am SO sick of this semester. I feel so overwhelmed all the time. It's exhausting.