Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Administrative Scheduling?

In my Big Cheese capacity, I got an email from some administrative folks asking me to schedule some times to do some repetitive (and necessary tasks). The times they gave me were pretty much all MWF at the same two hour slot. Unfortunately, that's a two hour slot that's taken up for me by teaching, pretty much, and regularly scheduled meetings on Fridays.

So, perhaps they've asked me to meet with them to do X task and they give me potential time slots to choose from: MWF 8-10. But I teach in there. And pretty much, if someone at my school teaches Monday at 8, they also teach W and F at 8. That's just the way teaching schedules tend to work around here.

This seems to happen pretty regularly with some administrative folks. They set up a schedule, and do it so if I'm teaching a class on one day, I'm also teaching that same class on the next possible day.

In a way, this is like the office hour problem. If I set up office hours after my course X, say Tuesday and Thursday from 10-11:30, then I'm going to need to make appointments with students who have classes then. So I usually vary my office hours to hit different sorts of schedules. I still have to make appointments, of course, and am happy to make appointments. But I don't imagine that students are suddenly not going to have their regular Tuesday/Thursday course just so they can come to my office hours.

My initial response is to think naughty things about administrators and how they don't remember that teaching students is our primary job, and how class scheduling generally works, and don't take that into account.

But upon a bit of reflection, I realize that I have no clue, none at all, about how administrators fill their time. I guess I assume they have some set meetings. I'm in a set meeting once a week where one administrator regularly comes. I've been on other committees (and in faculty governance work) where administrators pretty much always were at our set meetings, every week. I'm guessing there are a fair number of meetings with other administrators, either regular, set meetings, or meetings scheduled more on the fly to deal with an issue or problem.

And then I'm guessing there's endless paperwork.

So, folks, how do administrators fill their schedules? Let's assume for a moment that they're neither stupid nor insensitive to the lives of instructors. Why do they put all the potential meetings at the same time on days when instructors are likely to be teaching a given class?


  1. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Well, one thing is that it may not even be the actual administrator who offered up that selection of times. I know, for example, that when fancy admins. at my institution send around an email about a meeting, it's usually their assistants who do it, and so the dean, say, might tell his assistant "I need to meet with the program directors about repetitive task in the next week. I'd like to do it first thing in the morning if I can." And so the assistant looks at the calendar, and it just so happens that the openings are all on MWF first thing in the morning. And if the meeting is about something *administrative* then nobody is thinking about the potential teaching responsibilities of the people who would need to attend. See what I mean?

    My sense is that administrators do have a fair number of regularly scheduled meetings, but also that they just aren't always terribly thoughtful about teaching schedules and how those work, particularly if they're meeting with people who are serving in an administrative capacity (like dept. chairs, for example). So they just assume, "Oh, you're an administrator like me!" and they don't think about the teaching thing. This is especially true of administrators who have never taught, or who gave up teaching altogether when they entered administration. These same administrators also like to ask one to serve on committees when one is not under contract for no compensation, or to meet during scheduled breaks when classes are not in session.

  2. Anonymous9:52 AM

    My theory: Someone else is supposed to be at the meeting who cannot be bothered to come to campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Plus, that same person or another person who is supposed to be at the meeting has something (maybe teaching) going on in the middle of the day MWF, and someone else who is supposed to be at the meeting cannot be bothered to be on campus on MWF afternoons.

  3. I have the same problem with doctors' offices, who seem to want to just set up appointments for me with no recognition that I might have scheduling needs (or seemingly willfully ignoring things like the fact that I said I can't come on M/W b/c i'm in class all day).

    Depending on the campus culture, some administrators can have a fair number of meetings already scheduled. I think it's rather odd that there's no sense that if M 8-10 is not good, W 8-10 is also not good.

    I would have thought that a moderately adept approach to the fact that there are classes all day long would be to offer a M 8-10 slot and say, a T 8-10 one, or M am and M pm to choose from.

    But really, no time is going to be good for everyone (at my department "retreat" in August, we spent a good half hour arguing about what time to hold dept meetings b/c there is no time when everyone is free).

  4. Administrators go to a lot of meetings. And push a lot of paper.

    I serve on *faculty* committees where we can't find a common time to meet, where no one is teaching...

  5. This doesn't answer your question, but our university has a policy that no classes are ever to be scheduled on Thursdays between 12 and 2, and that's the time when all administrative meetings can take place.

    Of course, the rule is broken sometimes, because it's just too tempting having that slot with so many empty classrooms, but then no one has to feel bad about the person who broke the rule having scheduling problems later.

  6. The other year, I got parachuted BACK into an administrative position at the last minute. This became a problem for the monthly meetings which have, since time immemorial, always been Tuesday afternoons.

    I was, of course, scheduled to teach then. Fortunately, since the meetings couldn't be moved, nor could my over-enrolled class, another faculty member took my place.

    I find that I can get out of a lot of these meetings by simply replying to the first request with my teaching schedule. If the administrator's staff see that I'm simply not available at the times they have, they go fishing elsewhere for warm bodies or just send me the documentation.

  7. i vote for stupid and insensitive, losing sight of the actual work of the university and the people teaching. how hard is it to find out your schedule before assigning you times that can't work?