Wednesday, May 26, 2021

One Year On

 I've been chair for a year now, and things are looking way better these days.

First, and probably most important: our new admin assistant is great.  They're learning what they need to learn, and they're eager to learn more.  They're kind to students and faculty alike, and friendly, and helpful.  

Our previous admin assistant was okay, but this one is just stellar.  If I've done nothing else as chair, I've helped hire a great person.

Second, I'm learning a lot.  I've had three professional development sessions, and one was incredibly helpful.  It was campus specific and led by our HR folks.  It was on how to bring someone on board as a new hire, and I used a ton of what I learned when we brought our new admin assistant into the department.


The department is relatively healthy; we have some serious conflicts, as I gather all departments do, but I think we're mostly okay.

We've asked for several searches for fall, and are waiting to hear.  I've learned that other colleges already know about their searches, so I'm guessing the decisions have been made but just haven't been communicated to us yet.  Our college has hired a new dean, so maybe the idea is that the new dean will communicate about searches.

I'm supposed to have a meeting with the new dean this summer.  I've got my fingers crossed that he's sane and reasonable and a good explainer.


I'm doing another professional development thing this past week, this week, and next week.  (three hours one morning a week).  It's pretty awful, and totally inappropriate for university contexts.  The only good thing is that I've connected with a colleague.


And now the semester's over.  Grades are all turned in.  (Only one faculty member was late, and that was because they were trying to help students.)  Let summer begin!

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Almost There

 We're in the last week of the semester, then a week of finals, and then summer comes.  This semester has sped by in some ways, and crawled in others. 

In the good news, most of my students are loving M. Butterfly for it's complexity and thoughtfulness about gender and race.  They had the usual difficulty at first, but now they're rocking it.  I've really enjoyed that class in all sorts of ways.

But budgeting, well, budgeting sucks.  Trying to figure out budgeting sucks.

I'm supposed to submit a hiring budget for our adjuncts, all of whom have a full time load (ideally), and all of whom have been here at least several years.  For the budget, I have one fund (the first year writing fund) to teach first year writing, and that covers maybe five people.  And then I cobble things together: the next person might be covered partly for a semester by a sabbatical replacement, and partly by this bit of money, and partly by that.  And so on.

Because math: a full time tenured/tenure track faculty member in my department usually teaches 11 credits a semester.  A full time adjunct teaches 15.  And the tenure track person costs more.  So, let's imagine we're paying the tenured person $50,000 a year, and they get half a year sabbatical, so that's $25,000.  Right? And we should be able to pay an adjunct a full load, right?  Wrong.

Nope.  Because math, we can only pay for 11 credits of an adjunct's time, so that's .73 of an adjunct for the semester.  So, if an adjunct is paid $40,000, we can use only $14,600 (40,000 x 0.73 divided by 2).

Where does the other $10,400 go?  Not to us!  (Of course, it doesn't go anywhere, because it's part of a fund for sabbaticals which pays the faculty member 100% of salary for a semester, or 65% of salary for a year, and pays the cost to the department for only the credits that person would have taught.)

For research reassignments, we get paid $1250 per credit, but at $40,000 a year, we pay 1333.33 a credit.  Where does the extra money come from?  I wish the hell I knew.

Some adjuncts here are paid less than the $40,000 number I've given.  In my department, we have a few folks paid more, and a few folks paid less, but it's a fair estimator.  (And our adjuncts get benefits if they're at or above 50%.  So it's a not horrific survival wage in this area because living isn't as expensive as in many areas.  The average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in our community is about $1000.)  (Most of our tenured folks make between $55 and $70k.  A few make more.  Tenure track folks tend to be starting at $55k these days, more or less.  Compression is a real problem.)


I read an article in The Atlantic "We should all be more afraid of driving."   And in that way that happens, I pretty much felt like the author is a privileged white male, because seriously, I've never felt that powerful or safe in a car, and I'm sure African American people who have to worry about being shot by cops for driving while Black feel even less safe.  That's not to diminish the horrific aftereffects of a bad accident, but to say that a lot of people don't need to be in a bad accident to know that one could happen and kill them all too fast and easily.  

I thought at one time about getting a motorcycle but decided I wasn't nearly a good enough defensive driver to survive on one, and so got a bicycle.  I still feel plenty vulnerable on a bicycle, but at about 15 miles an hour, any crash I get into with a non-moving object is likely to be survivable.  But if I get in a crash with a car, all bets are off.  And I ride on roads anyway.  But I sure think about it, just as I think about it when I'm driving, especially if I see someone else driving in ways that seem iffy.  


And now, back to budgeting.