Wednesday, July 13, 2005

 

Summertime, and the Scheduling is Tricky...

Summer is a funny time to be an administrator. Faculty love nothing more than dashing by in baseball caps and shorts to wish me a nice break, followed by a theatrical ‘oops!’. But I am above resentment, having successfully repressed the urge to tell them what to do with their sunscreen. Mostly.

The tricky part of summer work is trying to put meetings together. Since academia is allergic to the concept of a single manager doing anything on his own intiative (that would be running the college like a business! Horrors! What’s next – tying pay to performance?), everything requires consultation and collaboration. In practice, everything requires meetings.

The logistics of assembling meetings are challenging enough during the academic year, when everyone’s calendar is full already. In the summer, simply finding days when everyone is in the state at the same time is tough. I recently got the summer schedule for one of the more important committees I’m on, and the list of who can attend when isn’t the same twice. On a day-to-day level, staggered vacations create a weirdly tense ‘hurry up and wait’ atmosphere; there’s plenty to get done, heaven knows, but most of it is impossible until some key players get back from wherever they are.

It’s not all bad. The parking lot is much less crowded, certainly, and so is the cafeteria. And the dress code loosens up a bit, which is nice. Still, it’s frustrating to sit in a sporadically air-conditioned office, staring at a long to-do list, knowing that most of it can’t be done because people with tenure and higher salaries than mine are spending this month at the beach.

July and August are definitely the worst. June has a flurry of end-of-the-fiscal-year activity, and the faculty who do teach summer classes teach them in June. July and August are just slow.

It could be worse, certainly. July and August are just when the entire concept of ‘faculty governance’ really crashes and burns. They can’t govern when they're not here.

Comments:
I always hate the question, "What are you doing this summer?" Well, working, running a summer program. Maybe I'll squeeze in a trip. I love this:

Since academia is allergic to the concept of a single manager doing anything on his own intiative (that would be running the college like a business! Horrors! What’s next – tying pay to performance?), everything requires consultation and collaboration.

I thought it was just us! Everything has to be run through 14 committees. It drives me insane. Oh, but they want to run it like a business when it comes to the budget.
 
the sad truth is, most businesses have 14 committees too, even small ones.
 
I attend a CC and thanks to some creative scheduling and extensive research, I have come away with a very good education. I have traveled on the school dime to some very nice places. This rule by 14 committees breeds apathy on the part of faculty and shows in their phoned in pedagogy. Most of the faculty barely tolerate students during open hours, if one is lucky enough to be taught be a tenured instructor with an office to conduct office hours.

Furthermore, with few exceptions, most faculty refuse to participate in any kind of campus life initiatives since they won't be "paid for it." Success in academia requires a certain amount of mentorship, particularily the populations served by community colleges.

One of the worst examples was an aging hippie professor in a subfield of human behavoir who always exorted us to "end commuter isolation" who could never be bothered to speak to students or contribute anything noteworthy to the campus. Heck, he couldn't even be bothered to attend office hours, check his email, or correct exams outside of class. Lecturing was also too big a responsibility for him and he taught an introductory class, for pete's sake. On the other hand, I've had professors whose confidence in me allowed me to belief I can reach for the stars.

I'm a frequent reader here and I appreciate your perspective enormously. I have learned to appreciate the services and role a community college plays in our education system.
 
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