Tuesday, September 22, 2015


In my department, we can often manage to schedule our teaching for four days a week, which gives us one "non-teaching" day to grade and do prep with fewer interruptions.  For many people, the ideal is to cozy up at home with the cat or whatever and grade away.

Today is my non-teaching day, but I'm heading to the office early because I have 4+ hours of meetings spread over the day, from 9am to 4:30pm, for maximal disruption of grading and prep.  Grrr.

One of the meetings is about the changing requirements of our travel policy.  We've gotten pretty draconian warnings that we must, must, must attend one of these meetings, and today's is the only one that doesn't overlap with my teaching schedule.


You may have read the news about a certain presidential candidate being "called" to drop out of the race.  I think he was "called" by a certain pair of brothers who are worried about the possibility of another candidate.  All of them worry me, to be honest.

There's a vague fear around here that the erstwhile presidential candidate who's been absent much of the summer and fall will return his attention to smacking down the people he smacked down before to make his reputation with all the more vengeful fury.  Since I've been smacked before, I'm not looking forward to further smacking.

I'd love to ask though, since the university system has in recent years turned its attention to the fact that the faculty throughout the system doesn't take the expected numbers of sick days, and has put in place rules to insist that if we're not working, we must take a sick day, has this erstwhile presidential candidate been paid for campaigning around the country instead of working "for" the state?

(My theory on the sick day thing is that faculty folks pretty much go to work and do their job unless they're hospitalized because that's the work ethic here and because trying to "make up" missed classes with our students is abysmally difficult.  We're also encouraged to do that by a benefits policy that, for now at least, turns unused sick days into health insurance coverage at the beginning of retirement.)


I've already had two students slammed by disasters this semester.  I think they'll both be okay, but life is very hard for them right now.  I wish there were more I could do beyond being supportive and working with them to catch up when they can.


  1. So far this term I've managed to keep meetings out of my non-teaching days, although I'm confabbing with a colleague during her lunch break today when I could be off campus and catching up on everything else.

    Good luck with all of the other disasters from political to students' personal issues. It is very hard to stand by and wait which is often all that you can do.

  2. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Rick Perry's run in the last presidential race was the best thing to happen to Texas universities (since he was too busy to pay any attention to them) under his tenure. I'm sorry to hear that your guy dropped out so soon, though I'm not at all sorry to hear that he's dropped out.

    We got that "sick day" thing too in our state. There must be some conservative governors memo that goes out. Thank goodness I had to use up my sick leave days when I had that baby (because we don't have paid maternity leave), since I do teach class when I am sick.

  3. So, how do they do the sick day thing? I mean, how do they know you are "not working". Sometimes when I'm working I take time to read blogs, or play solitaire -- and it's time that allows me to think through my lecture, or writing, etc. And I can work at night, or all day Saturday while I do something fun on Friday. Etc.

    My former employer once wanted us to log all our work time, which was crazy making because we traveled for the job: was two hours in the airport work time? Or was it non-work time?

    1. Anonymous5:11 PM

      If you haven't used any sick days over an unspecified period of time, they will "investigate" you in some unspecified manner. At least that's how it is in my state.

      We also had to fill out an "alternative work location" form this past year for when we are working not at our offices.

  4. WTF? I don't think faculty even have sick days, as such, at my university. We have "major medical leave," which I think is for when you have open-heart surgery or something, but that's it. Also, wouldn't this policy just cause people to take a bunch of sick days that they don't actually need?

  5. My impression of our sick-leave situation is similar to Fretful Porpentine's: we do have some sort of sick leave available, which generally gets used as maternity leave when applicable (because we don't have any other sort of maternity leave), or when there's a major medical crisis. It's actually fairly generous, and accrues to some extent over time (without turning into any other sort of benefit on departure, though, I'm pretty sure). I've never officially taken a sick day, and so have accrued the maximum, which isn't quite a semester, but close. I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that, at this point, should I be faced with surgery or chemotherapy or whatever during the school year, I'd be in a position to claim some substantial time off to recover (or maybe, in the case of chemotherapy, a temporary reduction in my 4/4 teaching load, though apparently that sort of arrangement is harder to set up than it should be, at least surrounding childbirth).

    If any of the above happened during the summer, however, I'd have to drag my way through summer classes if it were at all possible, because I'm pretty sure that, despite the fact that summer salary is a necessary part of my budget, none of the above applies during the summer session, when I'm teaching on a separate contract. So if I'm going to experience a major illness, I need to fit diagnosis, treatment, and recovery between September and May, or into whatever part of the summer I'm not scheduled to teach.

    However, if I'm going to miss a day or two of teaching (at any time of year) because I have no voice, or there's every reason to think that the intestinal problems I'm experiencing are highly contagious (not to mention difficult to manage while teaching), I just email my class, usually with an alternative online assignment (which is what we're encouraged to do in case of weather problems as well, so it's pretty clearly kosher). Before widespread use of email (and easy ways to email a whole class at once), we used to let the department office know, but that was so someone could tape a note to the classroom door.

    We haven't received any directives on this subject. For background, I'm in a purple state where governors tend to alternate between very conservative and moderately liberal. It's also a right-to-work (sic.) state, so there are no fully-functioning teachers'/faculty unions, which may mean less enthusiasm on the part of the more-conservative governors for prying into faculty work hours and/or benefits, since they aren't the result of union negotiations. Hey, there's got to be a silver lining somewhere.

    1. Also, there's a major push on our campus to offer online classes, which pretty clearly reflects a desire not only to cater to students' schedules, but also to reduce the amount of on-campus infrastructure needed to support instruction. I'm pretty sure that's true everywhere, which will create some interesting wrinkles in the whole tracking-location issue. Of course, they *can* track time spent on a LMS, which is a bit scary.