Thursday, May 19, 2005

Meetings and Tics

A sentence you will never hear: "Faculty morale is high."

I’ve been dean-ing for almost five years now, in two different institutions, and I’ve never heard this. People who have been deaning much longer than I have confirm my impression – they’ve never heard it either.

Accordingly, a sentence like “Faculty morale is low” simply bounces off. It’s sort of assumed. It’s like declaring that the sun rose in the East this morning.

I had a division meeting this morning, fielding questions from about 65 f-t faculty. It went relatively well, as these things go, but I noticed a few verbal tics that, if I had my druthers, I would simply ban. Start with the faculty morale point.

“The perception is…” This is a meaningless statement. At best, it’s an attempt to place some courtesy distance between the speaker and the statement, but it’s fundamentally disingenuous. I’d much rather hear “I think…” or even “You are…” Perceptions don’t exist independently of perceivers, so let’s specify the perceivers and get on with it.

“I just wanted to say…” If you delete this phrase and start with the next word, you lose absolutely no meaning.

“It appears that…,” or, even worse, “It would appear that…” Just say it.

The odd thing, given how desperate so many new Ph.D.’s are to find full-time work, is how crabby so many tenured folk are. Some of it is end-of-semester exhaustion, which is understandable, but some of it is chronic. If it were really that bad, I wouldn’t expect to see so many smart, talented people desperately trying to break in.

I’ll look at the bright side. If they’re that willing to complain, they must perceive an open atmosphere. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll go with that…