Friday, September 25, 2009
Why Wasn't I Notified?
Last Spring we put out calls for proposals for how best to spend our stimulus money. We had all-campus meetings (with strong attendance and led by the President), emails, online discussion, and smaller group meetings. We had forms, procedures, and deadlines. Some folks did what we hoped they would do: they thought about the ground rules and their own situations, and they put in proposals for consideration. The committee that did the considering was composed of administrators, staff, and faculty, and the faculty volunteered as a result of several all-campus emails. Some of the proposals were accepted, including several from faculty, and are hitting the ground now. (The accounting processes for stimulus money here are particularly byzantine, which explains the lag.)
So yesterday I get copied on an indignant group email, in which a voluble (and tenured) professor is Shocked and Appalled that money is being spent on a particular project without faculty input. Why, this is an outrage! This is just typical of The Administration's poor communication, and lack of respect for the faculty!
It would be one thing if he were merely wrong. In response I pointed out that, in fact, the faculty had been consulted repeatedly -- almost naggingly -- and that the project that set him off was, in fact, from the faculty. If it were merely his mistake, it wouldn't bother me much. Hey, we all make mistakes. It happens.
What makes it so tiresome and frustrating is the waving of the bloody shirt. The email was copied to all and sundry, and written in High Indignation. It was clearly intended to be a salvo in a political battle; the truth-content, if any, is beside the point. (Had he been concerned with truth, he could have started with an individual message.) Refuting the specifics doesn't do much to wash away the bitter aftertaste, which was clearly the point.
I've seen this morality play before, in enough contexts and enough times, that I'm already bored before the end of the first act.
In a perfect world, of course, the next move would be for him to say something like "whoops. My bad. Sorry 'bout that." But I know better than to expect that. Instead, he'll shift the argument. Instead of "I wasn't told," which is demonstrably false, it will become "I blew it off at the time, and that's your fault." He won't put it that way -- it's not terribly plausible when stated so baldly -- so I expect it will be wrapped in something like "wasn't made clear" or "you know we don't read emails" or "we're much too busy to be bothered." It's a fine line between 'bothered' and 'consulted.'
The real subtext, of course, is "at the time, I didn't think you meant it." Now he's annoyed at, well, truth. We said it was true at the time. He didn't believe it, and that has to be someone's fault.
It's still only September...
When he is "called" on the truth, he sends the "my bad" email and pleads that he is just kidding. I know that I shouldn't let it bother me, but it shows disrespect for everyone else.
Buy I really liked the punch line in your blog. My suggested reply:
"I apologize in advance for annoying you with the truth, but what you are complaining about did not come from The Administration. It was a proposal from some of your fellow faculty members that was highly ranked and approved (unanimously?) by a committee that was X% faculty. Many faculty chose to read their e-mail and participate in the process we initiated on (date) so we could make the best use of the money provided by Pres. Obama's stimulus plan. I am sorry you did not, but that was your decision, not mine."
(Any additional details follow.)
But: I wish we could arrange some sort of managerial exchange program, so that DD could see that pains-in-the-ass do in fact exist outside the ranks of tenured academia. Any excuse to take a passing jab at tenure, eh?
Why is this happening NOW!?!? I was never told!?!?!?! OUTRAGE!!1211!!!ELEVENTY!1!!1!
Well, yes, you were told, many months ago. A series of e-mails went out with multiple follow-ups and offers to come meet one-on-one to discuss the process, the ramifications, and to work together to minimize the consequences.
BUT!!!!!!! WELL!!!!! You should have told us DIFFERENTLY!!!111!! OUTRAGE!!111!!!ELEVENTY!11!!1111!
Of course, I'm not our department chair, so I can sit there and snigger to myself while I enjoy the show.
It's a debate I'm genuinely eager to have. I'm just not convinced that DD's disdain for tenure is very well thought-out. But I'm still hoping for the post that will convince me otherwise.
That said, DD did begin his post by describing "EVERY manager's favorite game." So perhaps my charge was unfair in this case.
Tenure is an issue for scholars and administrators at real institutions of higher education.
Have a nice day.
It might be because they don't know how the system works, or it might be because they didn't get a personal phone call reminder instead of another e-mail from an administrator, but quite a few of them are out of touch.
As for those who comment here, please limit your personal rants and use of profanity. DD articulates his thoughts and opinions in a manner that is respectful of others and we should do the same.