Tuesday, November 07, 2006

 

Candor Day

I have my share of weird and sick fantasies, most of which I won't blog about. But there's one that I think could actually be socially constructive, as well as psychologically healthy: Candor Day.

Candor Day would be one day each year when truly free speech would reign; it would be an 'off the record' day during which raw truth could be told. Speech on Candor Day would be given a free pass legally, like Congressional immunity. It would be the day on which the usual layers of etiquette would be suspended, and actual truth would roam free. It would 'ground' the meanings underneath the usual bureaucratic phrasings, so people wouldn't get too terribly lost in euphemisms.

For example, for one day a year, this:

Mike, I have some concerns based on some student reports about you missing class. Please drop by so we can clear this up.

could become this:

Mike, you lazy sack of shit, show up for your damn job. Christ, if not for tenure, I would have fired your sorry ass long ago.

Much better. This way, Mike actually knows what's going on, and knows that I know, too.

In a way, Candor Day would simply level the playing field. For tenured faculty, every day is Candor Day. For one day a year, it would be nice for administrators to enjoy similar impunity. Hell, it might even provide an incentive for tenured folk to think a minute before popping off the rest of the year, since they'd actually run the risk of getting a fraction of it back.

It would prove useful for any number of issues. For example, classroom observations. This:

Prof. X's lecture was wide-ranging and allusive

could become this:

Prof. X went wildly off-topic for most of the class. I suspect he missed a pill again, the smug bastard. He's a tragic waste of a six-figure salary, and who wears black suits with brown shoes, anyway?

Much better!

Or this:

Steve, I share your concerns about the time involved in adapting to ever-shifting web platforms, but we really have to do what's best for the students...

could become this:

Steve, quit whining and try working for a living. You'd last ten minutes in the real world. And don't even get me started on the factual errors in your lectures...


Finally, this chestnut:

Sam, I know you're no fan of committee work, but we really need your input...

would become:

Sam, I already have faculty who only teach classes and go home. They're called “adjuncts.” Hint, hint.

Speaking truth to power is easy. I'd like to speak truth to tenure.

How might Candor Day work for you?

(Closed-caption for the irony-challenged: this is venting for comic effect. It is not a serious proposal. Please spare me the indignant flaming. Thank you.)

Comments:
I already have candor day venting on my blog every day :) But I would like to have Candor Day for some of my students. E.g:

"Andrea, this is a good start on your paper, but you need to work on more coherent organization."

-vs.-

"Andrea, you're dumb as a stick. Forget organization-- you couldn't write a coherent sentence to save your Chocolate cell phone. If not for your dad's deep pockets, you would not be here. Please do us all a favor and pursue a career as an model-singer-heiress, okay?"

(Sorry. Just graded a stack of papers and am a little bitter...)
 
Posted on every whiteboard engineering students would see:

"That cute girl in your engineering classes *does* know you're alive -- it's really hard to miss your creepy stalkerish mouth-breathing stare. She just doesn't care. You aren't that special. And I know this is the really hard one to grasp, but socialization with lonely males is not why she's there; the "interest" of her classmates is so irrelevant to her purpose that it only registers on her conciousness as a petty annoyance, like a lightbulb humming or an elevator evidently programmed by a monkey with a scrabble set.
 
"So, you would like to start teaching online classes this summer? What are you doing to prepare yourself for that?"

becomes

"You've been anti-online for the past ten years. You cannot send an email because you are a complete technophobe. The only reason you "want" to teach online is because the students refuse to register for your on-ground classes, and therefore your summer classes always get canceled due to low enrollment. Those online classes sure have good enrollment though, don't they? You must be hoping that the true distance students have never heard of your horrible reputation. Rather than have you teach an online class in the summer (so you can make extra pay - your ONLY motivation to do so), maybe we should cancel all online classes in your discipline and encourage students to register at a different school. That would be the student-centered thing to do."
 
"I would be happy to serve on that committee" becomes
"I would rather choke on my own bile than sit on this committee. But you are the Associate Dean, and you asked me to attend, so what can I do?"

"Good morning, Professor X," becomes
"Professor X, please start wearing squeaky shoes, because it's really f--ing creepy when you sneak up on people like that, though I suspect you like creeping your colleagues out. Asshat."

"Good morning, Professor Y," becomes
"Your cologne absolutely wreaks. Please, for the love of everything good and beautiful, remember this phrase, 'A little dab'll do ya.'"

"You're presenting a conference paper this weekend. How wonderful!" becomes
"You and I both know that this conference was begging for people to present. Original research is a completely new conept to you, isn't it? In the last ten years, you've left no stone unturned."
 
I actually bought squeaky shoes for that reason.
 
I'm with maggiemay: the joy of the anonymous blogging! In the spirit of Candor Day, a couple recent excerpts from my lab. Oh, if only I could once tell them what I REALLY think.

"I'm confident that my result is the true one, but I'll have to think about your suggestion"

--> "I spent three months driving a stake into the heart of that @#$%!!! project, which was your frigging bad idea to start with, and I'll walk to Alaska barefoot before I'll do one more experiment on it. Also, you're a moron, and your suggestions are insane."

"Well, OldWhiteMaleAdvisor, I'm plenty strong to lift this 5 gallon water bottle."

--> "You misogynistic, condescending jerk. I am perfectly capable of heaving this bottle at your tiny head."

Maybe it's for the best that I don't practice candor every day.
 
Mike, I have some concerns based on student reports about you missing class. Please drop by so se can clear this up.


Becomes: Mike, you lazy sack of shit, show up for your damn job. Christ, if not for tenure, I would have fired your sorry ass long ago.

My Candor Day comment: Quit hiding behind tenure, Dean Wimp. I've been the union grievance chair on this campus for years, and I can tell you that missing class is certainly is certainly grounds for disciplinary action--up to and including dismissal. And it's easy to document, too. All you need to do is to move your lazy butt out of your comfortable office and take a walk by Mike's classroom every day. If he's not there, then write it down, and call Mike and me into your office. If he persists, then you can teach him what "progressive discipline" means. And it can mean his job. But nothing going to happen if you don't want to get your hair mussed a little and start earning your six-figure salary. Tenure's no excuse for Mike--or for you, either.

Philip
 
Most days:

"Well, we have two more exams, plus the final. If you can work hard and get your scores up, you could still get a C."

On Candor Day:

"You're too stupid for this class. Drop it now, before it's too late."

Is it possible to have Candor Day about two days before the drop deadline?
 
Oh, I *so* love this!

In general, being the pawn of the bureacracy that I am, my most satisfying Candor Day transformation would go something like this:

"Yes, sir." becomes

"You moron. Do you have any idea of the ramifications of what you're suggesting? If we follow this course of action, you will put the reputation of the entire organization in jeopardy, and we will lose our credibility with just about anyone with a brain. Are you f*cking kidding me? Where's the candid camera, because surely to god you can't possibly be as stupid as this suggestion indicates and still have risen to your position of (relative) power. Get a life!"

Ahhh, that felt good!

Then again, a simple "If you think it's such a swell idea, why don't YOU do it and put YOUR name on it!" would feel pretty good, too!
 
Oh, I *so* love this!

In general, being the pawn of the bureacracy that I am, my most satisfying Candor Day transformation would go something like this:

"Yes, sir." becomes

"You moron. Do you have any idea of the ramifications of what you're suggesting? If we follow this course of action, you will put the reputation of the entire organization in jeopardy, and we will lose our credibility with just about anyone with a brain. Are you f*cking kidding me? Where's the candid camera, because surely to god you can't possibly be as stupid as this suggestion indicates and still have risen to your position of (relative) power. Get a life!"

Ahhh, that felt good!

Then again, a simple "If you think it's such a swell idea, why don't YOU do it and put YOUR name on it!" would feel pretty good, too!
 
My ultimate candor day was stapling signed drop slips to a number of midterm tests, that were, shall we say, lower than grade level.

My colleagues don't appreciate my comments either. It is amusing to email some of them their Web of Science citation records
 
"I had considered the same thing"
vs
"In a moment of stupor, I pondered for an instant that insane idea and, even then, dismissed it as assinine. However, I will suck down two Advil and endure the headache so that I might explain, in words small enough for your to understand, how this idea (and perhaps you as well) would be better left to die in the wilderness!"
 
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