Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Little Stuff

 As instructors, we all have little stuff that needs to get done.  

We have monthly time sheets, which basically ask, did you take sick leave.  If not, you say no.  If you did, you put in the days you were out. It takes about 3 minutes once a month, and one of our administrative assistants sends out a reminder each month with directions how to do it.

And yet: this past week, I've gotten emails from the deanling letting me know that about a quarter of our folks were missing at least one, and of those, most were missing significant numbers.  Some people were missing the whole year's worth.  It's a little thing, right?  Except when we retire, unused sick leave gets converted into payments towards our group health insurance, and for me, at this point, having been here 20 years, I have about 5 years of insurance (unless I get sick and have to take sick leave now).  That means, for a lot of people, retiring before 65 is a real possibility.  And that's incredibly valuable!

So I sent out reminders with specific months that folks had to do.  And still, even now, some people haven't bothered.  (The notes I sent out specified that people would lose x hours of sick leave, because that's what the deanling told me.)

Another piddly thing: we're all supposed to turn in a syllabus for each course to be kept in an electronic file.  This way, if a student needs a copy of the syllabus for a transfer or something, the office staff can help them with that easily.  

So, the same admin assistant sends out requests.  And then reminders.  And at this point in the semester, they're sending individual requests to the people who haven't sent them yet.  

I don't get why.  Seriously, you hit "reply" and then "attach" and go through your computer files, attach the file, and hit send.  Two minutes?  And this is for things you're currently teaching, so you probably have the files somewhere pretty handy, right?

These piddly things come to me, as chair, to send reminders and such, or to try to add my urging to the admin assistant's.  For all the good it does.

And yes, the irony: faculty are FAR worse than students at turning things in, even when reminded repeatedly.  We don't, as it were, read the syllabus.

Except, like most students, most of us do the things we're supposed to do, if not immediately, after one reminder.  It's just the ones who don't cause extra work for other people, and the work adds up.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Reviewing the Review

 This past week, our former chair, several high level administrators, and I had a meeting to review the department review that was done in 2019.  Usually, they said, the reviews of the reviews happen in summer, but as we all know, this summer was something else, and so, it was delayed.

The review was good, as was the initial review.  There are problems, but we all knew that, and we also know that we can't mint money, so we can't easily solve the problem.

Over-reliance on instructors with short term contracts.  They're great, but we're constantly juggling how we're going to pay them (we being the department during planning season), rather than them being paid through the base plan as tenure track folks and more permanent folks are.

We were advised to hire some people on more permanent contracts.  And, of course, we'd put in a request to do so last spring, and the administrators didn't give us the go ahead, because they had a massive budget shortage looming, of course.  So then they said, well, it's a good idea to hire people on more permanent contracts.  And we agreed.  And nothing is likely to come of it because the state is in more and more dire circumstances.

And even when things ease up, we'll never get back to where we once were.  Or we won't unless the voters decide that they really do want to fund public education in a more meaningful way again.  And I hope they do, and I think they should start with K-12 schools first.

And thus, we all performed our little performance for each other, yes, these things would be good, and maybe someday.  But today is not the day.  Nor is next year, in all likelihood.  Nor the year after.  And in the long run, we're all dead.

I can't imagine how disheartening it must be for the administrators at the meeting to have these meetings with chairs of recently reviewed departments, and to know they're just performing, and that they'll never have the money to throw at the problems in a meaningful way.

Our former chair asked a GREAT question during the meeting: What are [the highest administrator's] priorities for us?

Of course, our work had been focused through the last five year plan, but now there's a new one... and it's even more STEM focused than the last.  F the humanities, is the latest word.  But if we just find a way to be more STEM focused!

My favorite was from our Dean, the person most directly responsible for giving us, or denying us, permission to do searches and make hires: catch up on hiring people.  Well... yes... but...


It's been over a month since I posted.  So much keeps happening, and there's constantly something new to learn.

Next up: I have to cobble together the plan for how we're going to pay our short term contract people next year.  That should be fun.  Oh, so very much fun.  Except, yeah, not really.