Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It's Never Good to be Asked for a Meeting

That should be rule one of being a chair, perhaps.  Or a corrolary.  Or something.

If someone has something really good to pass along, they give you the basics in an email, even if they want to discuss the next step with you in a meeting.

No colleague says, "I want to have a meeting" and then tells you "I just got this cool publication and I'm super happy."  Nope.  They share the good news and accept everyone's happy congratulations.

No one says, "I want to have a meeting" and then tells you about their wonderful new puppy.  Nope.  They share pictures of the puppy and accept everyone's admiring congratulations.

Yesterday afternoon, I got an email from a colleague asking to meet with me.  I figured, it's one of two things, given the colleague, and neither is great, but neither is beyond horrible either.  And I was right, it was one of the two things, and it means I get to juggle more extra work.  But happily it's not absolutely horrid, either.


I have a colleague who seems to be consistently late when asked to turn in anything mildly administrative.  For example, we ask for copies of syllabi each semester to keep on file.  In a worst case scenario, if someone is killed driving in to work, someone else at least has that as a starting point to finish teaching the course.  In a more usual scenario, in five years when a student is trying to transfer a course for some reason, or get it to mean something for a graduate application, they can contact the office and our staff can easily find it in the files and send it off even if the colleague has retired.  (I've gotten at least three requests for such things this year).

But the colleague who's consistently late with such things.  I'm not sure why.  They're late with another important thing now.  

So I sent an email asking how I could help with the problem, asking if they're okay, and such.  I hope that was a useful approach.  It seems better than getting frustrated with the person.

(The problem with the chronic lateness is that it adds extra work to the load of our office staff, who have to keep asking for the work.  Our office staff are plenty busy and do a good job, and we shouldn't burden them just because we don't care.)


I have another campus leader thing tomorrow for three hours, this one on preparing future leaders.  This is GREAT in theory, but in practice seems really hard.

So I ask:  what should I be doing as chair to help prepare the next and future chairs?  

I've recommended some committee roles to folks who were interested.  If you want to become chair, you should have a pretty good sense of your department's curriculum and how it fits for majors, for GE and such, and for other department majors.  You should also get to know the folks at the college and university level who work on curricular stuff.  So that's good.

Serving as a university senator is good.

(In some ways, I took on a lot of the preparatory roles without thinking of them in that way, and just happened to be reasonably well prepared for most things.  

But how do you help someone prepare for budget stuff?

1 comment:

  1. Lateness: does your colleague understand the purpose of collecting syllabuses? Sometimes people stall on stuff that seems like pointless busywork, whereas if they grasp the purpose, they're more willing to do it. Sometimes deadlines just seem arbitrary, or so badly timed as to be impossible. Here I'm thinking of the "deadline" (which seems to be very flexible) for ordering books for next semester; it always seems to be right at the most agonizing point of mid-semester crash-and-burn, in my life, so book orders get put off. It would be easier to order books when I write my course descriptions, much earlier in the semester, and I've been trying to do that or at least set up a document with ISBNs & so on, to make my mid-semester life a little easier.

    Preparing for chairing: where I am, the chair is like a black box; the only people who seem to get insight into the job are those who serve as undergrad director (which in many ways is like assistant chair), and I don't know how people get trained for that, either. I was asked, once, and turned it down. Serving on the department governance committee is some help. I think serving on a university-level curriculum committee would also be very helpful. For budget stuff, though, I don't really know. I serve on one committee where we at least get to see budget stuff, but it seems like so much of that happens at higher admin-level that there just isn't much one can do to get a handle on it.

    I think in your position, I might start adding a 10-minute section to department meetings, once or twice a year, openly and transparently labeled "training for the next chair," where you talk about some of the stuff you do and why it matters, assuming you can do that without breaching confidentiality.