Friday, September 25, 2009


Why Wasn't I Notified?

I'm playing another round of every manager's favorite game, "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...

Story of my life - couldn't have articulated it better (sadly.)
I really hate the political use of the cc line in emails. When did everything start to need an audience?
We have an interesting composition instructor who has some even more "interesting views" (Bigfoot exists, UN will takeover US soon, etc.) who continually will send out his rants about perceived slights and cc everyone.
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.
So why don't you make political use of the BCC line? (BCC everyone your correspondent CC'd, so the ranter thinks they didn't see your reply. If you want to sit back and watch, send a reply that simply directs Prof Outrage to contact the authors of the proposal for info and CC them.)

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.)
I am so fed up with people who don't read their email that I could literally scream.
This does sound frustrating; my sympathies.

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?
Shane, the lady doth protest too much. The only mention of tenure was a bland parenthetical describing who the party that sent the email was. If accurately describing the status of somebody who performed an action is a jab at that status, then adjectives apparently carry far more meaning than I previously realized. Can I say my elderly doctor is elderly, or would that be ageist?
AHAHAHAHAHAH!!! That shit's fucking hilarious!!! We get washed-up tenured fuck-ups pulling this shit all the time in our faculty meetings:

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.
My favorite is the guy who was outraged that our IT Dept deleted the 10,000 (that's right, ten-thousand) email messages that he had stored in his Trash folder. Of course, this was after the IT Dept sent several messages over the course of a month, warning that they were going to do this. The gist of his all-campus, "Big Brother is coming for YOU" tirade was that he had never been informed and that it was his right to keep valuable information in a folder labeled, "Trash".
Yes, DD's mention of the faculty member's tenure status was only parenthetical. That's the issue: DD continually takes jabs at tenure and proposes doing away with it, without ever really tackling the subject head-on. I've been hoping for as long as I've been reading this blog (a couple of years now, at least) that he would post a substantive proposal on these pages about what his substitute for tenure would look like. The most specific he's ever gotten is to propose rolling four-year contracts, with no more detail than that. I'm highly skeptical that such a system could preserve academic freedom and faculty governance nearly as effectively as tenure does, for all its problems. I'm especially skeptical that such a system would work at all in "right-to-work" states where faculty cannot count on the collective power of a union to look after their interests.

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.
So washed-up dead-wood tenured douches are complaining that anyone would ever even refer to the existence of tenure, because it might make them feel bad??

"Where you stand depends on where you sit." DD experiences a lot of the downsides of tenure and few of the upsides. It is reasonable and appropriate for him to consistently note these and push, as part of the overall conversation.
Who knows whether tenure makes sense at a high school -- er, I mean, a community college -- and who cares?

Tenure is an issue for scholars and administrators at real institutions of higher education.

Have a nice day.
Maybe, just maybe, the rant was driven by the issue that having input of ideas greatly differs from having input into the final decisions. I always love it when the Admins eagerly ask for faculty input and then completely ignore it; just so they could say they "consulted with the faculty on this."
DD does seem to run into a lot of unreasonable faculty, and I say 'unreasonable' because he makes it clear that he himself does not screw up, offer slights, or in any way provoke the stupidity of the tenured jerks (redundant phrase, I suppose) on his faculty.
Did you send the email?
Although I think there's merit to the point that many faculty members question the sincerity of calls for their feedback or are simply unable to answer all such requests . . . I also agree it's disrespectful to take the high road when you haven't participated in the process. There have always been people who cried at the outcome of a political election but thought it irrelevant that they never voted.
I am amused by the unjustified assumption that it is the older faculty who were not paying attention to those requests. At my CC, it is often the youngest tenured faculty who are not paying attention.

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 a tenured faculty member and president of our local faculty association, I feel DD's pain. I recently led a meeting of faculty where the group complained for 20 minutes about not having input on a particular item and then followed it almost immediately by complaining about being asked to participate in the evaluation and possible re-creation of a process. That is not okay. Either you want input and are willing to put in the effort that requires or you are not. Make the choice and accept the consequences.

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.
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