Sunday, December 14, 2014

"People Change Towards You"

I've had a couple friends move into various administrative type positions over the years, and a common refrain I've heard is that they were told that "people change towards you."  And they tell me it's true that people change towards them.  Things just aren't the same.

So I've tried to be pretty aware of how I change towards people as they've gone into administration.  And I think it's true.  Some things I do change.  For example, I don't easily share personal problems because it feels like every conversation is "official."  And if I share that I'm having difficulty with a class, that's going to be on the person's mind if they review me, or see my application for something, and so on.  If I tell them I'm feeling lousy, then the response is all official and not what I'm probably looking for, the sympathetic "gosh, I'm sorry, I hope you feel better soon!  Have some chicken soup."  So if a friend who's gone into administration feels that I've pulled back, that's a reasonable observation, I think.

But what I don't hear from the administrative folks is that they, too, change.  For one, they seem to quickly lose touch with the rhythm of the teaching semester.  I've had administrative friends suggest I take a week off in the middle of the semester to do a group vacation, for example.

And this week, there's another: 

In the stone ages, my department used to give a "common" grammar type exam in comp courses.  Everyone hated it, and we voted it away not long after I came, but when it was there, it was on the first Monday of finals week, at 8am, and then we'd have a departmental potluck for lunch that day, too.  We were all on campus anyway, and the emeriti and spouses would come, and we'd all blow off some steam, and then get back to grading jail.  (I'm sure it was even easier when most of the faculty were married men whose spouses would cook the potluck and bring it still hot from the oven.)

The practice faded away because without the common exam we weren't all on campus on Monday, and we're all busy, and about half of us are women who don't have a spouse to obligingly cook and bring our potluck dish, and so on.

The new chair decided to bring back the tradition.  I think some of the emeriti really missed it. 

I signed up because I want to be supportive of the new chair, but I'm irritated that I'll have to get up early to get to campus to get parking, spend at least half a day on campus getting far less grading done than I would at home, figure out food to bring (I've done that, at least).

Judging from the nudges we got from the departmental staff folks, sign ups were slow.  And the sign up sheet wasn't very full when I put my name on there.  I think this is one of those things we should let go of, and let us do our jobs without demanding that we socialize on campus, officially.

May I also note that it irritates me slightly that the married faculty couples (both in the department) bring one dish, prepared by the female partner.  The married men in my department seem largely incapable of turning on a stove or oven; the ones who are married to non-department members always seem to note that their wives made their dish, unless they've chosen to bring cheese on a platter, in which case they may have made the purchase. 


  1. I guess at least the married men are trying to give credit where it's due, though it comes across as one of those I-don't-realize-my-privilege maneuvers. But I agree with you about forced on-campus social life.

  2. Just because I've got to give my husband (who is in my division) props: He does at least 90% of the cooking in our household. And the 30-year-old woman who joined our division last year has a chef for a boyfriend; her potluck dishes come entirely from him (whether or not he attends the events. She brags that she can cook cold cereal and toast). I realize that they're the exceptions, but at least a couple of exceptions exist!

  3. You're right about people changing when they go into administration. My dean tries to act like he's facilty sometimes, but no one really trusts him like they do regular faculty. He's not someone you'd confide in, for instance. He's not a good administrator either -- completely impotent in the face of conflict, and a true pushover. It makes me want to be a dean to show him how it's done, but then, I worry about becoming alienated from faculty myself.

    There's been renewed interest in becoming socially closer in my department once we split our department. But you're right -- I don't want to come in to school when I don't have to. Sigh. There's got to be a better way.

  4. Bardiac, forget the food prep. Bring a bowl of fruit salad from the grocery store, or one of those prepackaged crudite trays, or a frozen lasagna. It's nice if the spouse or partner wants to cook and bring something, but seriously: you're the professor! Don't cook.

    Also, if the Chair wants to host an event at hir house and wants to cook for all of hir colleagues, then let hir. But the demand that 1) you socialize outside of work hours with your colleagues, and 2) that you help cater the event? Screw that. Invitations to potlucks are the most ungenerous kinds of entertainment ever. I think you and your colleagues need to think about what your goal is in holding this kind of event.

    1. Anonymous10:24 AM

      I second this. I never cook for pot lucks. I cook if I invite people.

  5. richard2:11 PM

    Whether at the university or, back in my previous life, in the private sector, or even before that, in K-12 school, I never ever liked parties at work (or in class). If I'm at work, I want to work. If I'm not going to be working, why would I want to go to work?

  6. Anonymous7:37 PM

    As a teacher, I would like to have more time to talk informally with a lot of my colleagues. As a chair, I think it's good for the department if we get to. But since I'm still teaching 8/9ths of a full load, I hope I'm pretty sensitive to demands on people's time. We're planning to have a lunch out (from the department budget) after the English exam in January.

    I hear you on the male colleagues piggybacking on their spouses' contributions. Not just that the woman makes the food, but that they both partake of the potluck. That would bug me too.

  7. Yes, getting more time to talk informally would be great, if we actually had more time, and weren't using the time to talk when we need it to grade and such.

    I ended up taking an easy dip and chips, and that was fine. I went long enough to eat and chat a bit, and then left to grade, but some folks hung out a while, mostly the emeriti and some who are retired but still teaching a course here and there.