Thursday, April 05, 2007

 

When Rubber Chickens Attack

The return of the baseball season brings with it the return of the rubber chicken and plastic peas circuit. End-of-the-year functions are crowding the calendar, picking off stray evenings with surgical precision.

This is the time of year when the expectation that deans have stay-at-home spouses becomes really clear. A single parent couldn't do this job. Interestingly, the three Vice Presidents at my cc, two of whom are women, have a combined total of zero children. I suspect this is both 'cause' and 'effect' of the fullness of the calendar. Folks who move up tend not to be folks who are primary caregivers; therefore, schedules that aren't terribly friendly to primary caregivers go uncontested.

At this point, I try not to look more than a week or two ahead, since taking it all in at once is just demoralizing.

Most of the individual events are more than worthy in themselves. I can defend almost all of them, taken separately. It's just the aggregation of them that wears you down.

My fellow deans and I have proposed a tag-team approach. For the events for which it makes sense, we'll designate one dean to represent the whole group. Each of us will take a turn. Instead of giving up 10 evenings over the next few weeks, maybe I whittle it down to 8. I don't know if we'll get away with it – we have some very 'high-touch' personalities around here, and expectations formed over the years are hard to alter without great weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth – but we have to try something.

At most of these events, I won't even have a speaking part. Maybe if I could build a good animatronic replica, I could get some sleep...

Annoyingly, I can't really compensate by coming in later. Business needs doing when it needs doing. But a few back-to-back “home at 11, back in the car at 6:30” days can really suck the wind out of my sails. And they're rough on the family. TW has to pick up the slack, and the kids (especially TB) get cranky when I'm not around when they expect me to be.

Our wedding anniversary falls smack in the middle of Rubber Chicken Season. I've actually blocked out the evening. I'm sure someone here will schedule something terribly important, and be Shocked and Offended (tm) that I'm not there, but sheesh. Even deans have limits.

For the next month and a half, I'll have precious little time to recharge the batteries. By late May, I'm usually one cranky so-and-so. Note to faculty: don't come looking for any special favors in May.

Sigh.

Repeat to self: this is a good problem to have. This is a good problem to have. This is a good problem to have.


Comments:
I always dread April for all the reasons you describe (I direct a graduate program at a too-competitive R1 university). Besides the rubber chickens, this is a prime month to submit conference abstracts for all fall meetings, and seems to be the month that 50% of all the faculty candidates for the entire YEAR are interviewed ...

I'm impressed that you and your fellow Deans see this coming and have mutually developed a tag-team approach!
 
Even though you administrators don't have a union, surely there must be some kind of "Administrators' Handbook" with job descriptions, salary schedules, and all the rest of it at your school. "Sorry, but that's not in my job description" is a hard-line approach to solving your problem, but what's wrong with a smallish white lie like "I have a previous engagement"? or "My wife's off doing x, and I've gotta take care of the kids"?
 
"Folks who move up tend not to be folks who are primary caregivers; therefore, schedules that aren't terribly friendly to primary caregivers go uncontested."

Put another way, those among us who are often asked to cover for those who beg off for family reasons (or those to whom the responsibilities default) ask only a reasonable price: better merit ratings, faster promotions, or more money.
 
Personally, if you are at a college that has significant budget issues, the costs of endless banquets sounds like a waste of money.

Why not have lunch pot-lucks instead? -- then, every day you could go to a different department for lunch and go home at a semi-reasonable hour?

i find the notion of all these kinds of things at a CC to be a bit odd, mine doesn't do end of year banquet-style ceremonines. We have one college wide 'good student of department X' celebration and maybe a few faculty parties...
 
I'm trying to decide whether to be sympathetic, or to simply laugh a bitter laugh.
 
"Most of the individual events are more than worthy in themselves. I can defend almost all of them, taken separately. It's just the aggregation of them that wears you down."

Don't college and university budgets create the same impression? Are there any analogies that can be made? Perhaps there are some analogous extensions from what Inside the Philosophy Factory said?
 
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