Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Add This to Your Plate

 I got a couple of emails yesterday, one from HR, and one from the Dean, which I actually read.  The upshot is that all of the chairs and other campus "leaders" are supposed to participate in a number of leadership courses, each lasting from three to nine hours, it looks like.

I'd like to bitch and moan about the added work, which is, at minimum, four three hour classes, so 12 hours, but two nine hour classes are also strongly recommended.

It's not like we have to do them all today or anything, they're spread over the year.  But the ones for this spring (four of them, I think) are mostly scheduled for when I have class to teach.  That pushes me into summer to take most of them.  

I dutifully signed up.  I don't want to get a reputation as a whiner, but still I'm irritated.  

Some of the classes look super helpful, and I wish I'd been able to do them this past summer: there's one on campus specific budgeting, and campus specific roles for chairs, and another on hiring practices that's campus specific.  

Others seem, well, potentially irritating.  Or not.  They seem to be really into the "seven habits" thing.  I don't really know.  According to Dr. Google, the seven habits are:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive® ...
  • Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind® ...
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First® ...
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win® ...
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood® ...
  • Habit 6: Synergize® ...
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®

I'm not sure I need 9 hours to learn about these.  I mean, duh.  And I'm unconvinced by the trademarks.  Seriously, "be proactive" is trademarked?  Didn't Ben Franklin have something to say like that?

I may need an attitude adjustment.  I need to try to make it useful, at any rate, because I'm supposed to do it.  But it does feel a bit cultish, doesn't it?

I can't help thinking how much more useful such things would be to colleagues at the beginnings of their careers rather than nearing the end.

I didn't sign up for the week long workshop in the middle of summer.  I'm hoping to actually get to have more of a summer this year.  I'm paid to work 60% during the summer, supposedly, and I mostly worked a lot more than that last summer.  (A lot of that was learning curve.)

Finally, I sometimes get the sense that people whose main jobs have to do with having meetings tend to think that the point of work is to schedule meetings, and everyone can schedule meetings at their convenience.  And, of course, that's not the way it works for most faculty and instructors on a college campus.

In better news, the department schedules committee did great work yesterday, and things are coming together for spring of 2022!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Chaos and Nothingness

There is everything to write.  And nothing.

Things are constantly changing, constantly demanding adjustments.  And things are endlessly boring and unchanging.

A month ago, we were all working under the assumption that fall semester would be much like the current semester, with significant numbers of colleagues working from home for medical or other reasons (they've been pretty good here about allowing folks with small children to work from home to be able to care for children whose daycare or schools are or may be closed at any time).  And a further significant number of classes are in weird hybrid or cohort models that no one likes (where, for example, on third of students can fit in a MWF classroom with a Covid Cap) and the rest can't, so the class is split in thirds and students actually meet in class once a week, with the instructor figuring out something for the rest of the week.  People have been creative in making courses work that way, but they're far from ideal.

Given that expectation, we had scheduled courses on line with no meeting times, or on line with meeting times for livestreaming, in cohort models, and in regular old face to face models with small numbers socially distanced in large rooms.  That left, of course, many regular rooms unused in any formal sense, since many rooms are designed to fit 20-30 students, but almost no courses run with 10 or fewer students.

And then on Monday, everything changed, and the administration announced that we would all be in person, even those with medical reasons linked to Covid.  The Dean said that the only reason a class could be on line was to meet a pedagogical need.

So we started replanning to put courses face to face in regularly capped rooms, without social distancing.

Except some people really have health problems and worry that even in fall we won't have sufficient herd immunity.  Nor will we require students to have vaccines, and we, of course, won't know their vaccination status, and won't be allowed to ask.

Immediately, requests came in from folks who want to remain teaching on line.  And they're still coming in.  Some are from folks with medical reasons, some are from folks who've moved elsewhere, at least partly, to be with loved ones while they teach on line.  (Here's work/life balance questions for real.)

I've been tending to say that so long as they have good pedagogical reasons...and I hope the Dean and higher ups will accept those pedagogical reasons.

The thing is: I walk by the special parking lot where higher level administrators (not the Dean, but above the Dean) have specified parking places.  #9 is the Provost's place, for example.  And none of those spaces tend to have cars parked in them when I come to work, at whatever time I come to work.  Nor when I walk to class.  Nor when I go home in the afternoon.

And when I'm in meetings on line with higher ups, it's easy to tell when they turn their cameras on that they're not in an office.  (The Dean almost always is, as is one associate Dean.)

If they don't feel safe working in their little fort building with separated offices and going to meetings in empty rooms on campus (there are a LOT of empty rooms that could fit a meeting of ten, say), then it irks me that they expect my colleagues with documented medical problems to meet with students several days a week in fall with no social distancing.  (NO one can say if there will be a mask requirement.)

I'm less sanguine about the folks who want to live elsewhere while they teach on line here.  It's not just that I think face to face generally makes better educational opportunities, but also that we do a lot of service work on committees, and they shouldn't expect everyone to accommodate their desires when it really is a lot better to meet in person normally.  On the other hand, we all make noises about work/life balance.  

In any department, there's likely a small percentage of people who are "checked out" to some extent from departmental life.  Often, these folks do a great job teaching, but shirk committee work.  Or they do great research and teaching, but shirk committee work.  And yet we all know that committee work keeps the gears moving and gets things done.  You want classes to teach?  There's a committee that works to make sure the curriculum makes sense.  And so forth.

It seems like teaching on line makes checking out easier to do, and harder to discourage.

***

I'm teaching a small class, all in person, and trying to make it as much like a regular course as possible.  And mostly, it's great.  They're discussing and it's lovely.

One person had to quarantine, and so I livestreamed the class.  And now some people seem to have decided that this means they can go somewhere and just tell me they'll join the livestream.  I'm frustrated by this behavior, but don't know quite what to do.    I don't want students to feel forced to come to class if they're unwell or should be quarantining.  But I also don't want to livestream so that a student can go visit a grandparent.  On the other hand, better that they join the livestream?  It's frustrating and hard.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Into the Abyss

 As I mentioned last time, our office staff person has left.  So we're working on hiring someone new.  And that involves paperwork.  Except, of course, nothing's actually ON paper.  What do we call it now?

We have permission to go back to the old search and call the next person down the list.  And between the folks on the search, we've dug out our notes and have the next folks' names.  What I don't have is their phone numbers.  So, I thought, I'll go into the computer documents about the last search and pick them up easily, and... I was wrong.

Between the time we did that search and now, the computer interface has been changed, so nothing I'm doing works to get me in.  At least nothing I can figure out.

I emailed the HR person who's mostly in charge of hiring stuffs, and who, I assume, is super busy.  Then I called the Question Center to get help from them.  That's our centralized "one stop shopping" administrative unit that's supposed to be able to help us with all sorts of administrative stuff.  No answer.  

I tried calling the administrative staff person at the Dean's office, who I thought might know.  No answer.

Then I got an email from the Question Center asking what my question was, sorry to miss my call, etc.  So I emailed them, and the response was to send another email to the HR person I'd already emailed.

I decided to work on other stuff.  And after a while, I got a call from one of the staff people at the Dean's office, to try to help.  But they didn't know.  So they asked the Dean, who, it sounds like, basically threw up his hands and said he always has to ask for help to get into the hiring system.  So then she called the Deanling, and we talked across phone lines, and decided to do an internet call.  

We did the internet call, and the Deanling realized that the directions page he was going to point me to (which I'd used already) didn't work any better for him than for me.  So HE put in a call to the HR person.

And now the HR person sent me new instructions, so I can get into the system.  But I can't seem to find my search in there.

I've now spent two or more hours on just this problem, and I've got 6 other problems to try to take care of, or tasks to do.