Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Dog that Didn't Bark

Mid-April to Mid-May is always the hardest time of year. All of the end-of-year stuff comes to a head at this point. The students are stressed about papers/projects/finals, and the faculty are in grading jail. This is when my evenings fill at an alarming rate, with various 'culmination' events and ceremonies. With the clock ticking on the semester, anything that requires faculty involvement (i.e. program reviews, faculty hires) has to happen now.

Which is to say, I'm wiped. That's normal for this time of year.

In a discussion commiserating with a colleague who is also up against it, I realized that this year's greatest achievement is something that didn't happen.

In the context of the largest single-year funding cut in the college's history, and the largest single-year enrollment jump in the college's history, here's what happened:

- the course completion rate held steady this Fall

- several strong new programs were developed

- labor relations remained positive

- we hired a few new full-time faculty

- we continued to improve shared governance

- the culture continued to shift, slowly, in a positive direction

- nobody flipped out

Going into this year, I thought this would be the big one. For a while there, I was honestly concerned that something was going to either fall apart or explode. I'm not ordinarily given to drama, but when you're caught in a pincer move as severe as this year's, it's fair to wonder just how you'll get through.

Instead, the college got through without catastrophe. Layoffs were minimal, and confined to administration. We actually hired some faculty. And the largest student cohort in history did remarkably well, all things considered.

Some victories are conspicuous and easily explained. This year, the victory was the dog that didn't bark. Very few will notice the victory, but it's real. In an environment as straitened as this one, that's what victory looks like.

I'll take it.