Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Summertime, and the Scheduling is Tricky...

Summer is a funny time to be an administrator. Faculty love nothing more than dashing by in baseball caps and shorts to wish me a nice break, followed by a theatrical ‘oops!’. But I am above resentment, having successfully repressed the urge to tell them what to do with their sunscreen. Mostly.

The tricky part of summer work is trying to put meetings together. Since academia is allergic to the concept of a single manager doing anything on his own intiative (that would be running the college like a business! Horrors! What’s next – tying pay to performance?), everything requires consultation and collaboration. In practice, everything requires meetings.

The logistics of assembling meetings are challenging enough during the academic year, when everyone’s calendar is full already. In the summer, simply finding days when everyone is in the state at the same time is tough. I recently got the summer schedule for one of the more important committees I’m on, and the list of who can attend when isn’t the same twice. On a day-to-day level, staggered vacations create a weirdly tense ‘hurry up and wait’ atmosphere; there’s plenty to get done, heaven knows, but most of it is impossible until some key players get back from wherever they are.

It’s not all bad. The parking lot is much less crowded, certainly, and so is the cafeteria. And the dress code loosens up a bit, which is nice. Still, it’s frustrating to sit in a sporadically air-conditioned office, staring at a long to-do list, knowing that most of it can’t be done because people with tenure and higher salaries than mine are spending this month at the beach.

July and August are definitely the worst. June has a flurry of end-of-the-fiscal-year activity, and the faculty who do teach summer classes teach them in June. July and August are just slow.

It could be worse, certainly. July and August are just when the entire concept of ‘faculty governance’ really crashes and burns. They can’t govern when they're not here.