May 16, 2013, 2:48 pm

Too many victims

After meeting with all of my faculty, and hanging out with faculty and academic administrators for the last 15 years (or 25, if we count the time I was in grad school), I find myself reflecting on how embattled the academic denizens seem to be. There are a lot of victims running around the hallowed halls of academe.

under attackWhat is interesting, though, is that we don’t root our problems in some of the real culprits: legislators who don’t believe in higher education and want to consistently cut funding to state institutions;  anti-higher ed folks in the larger community who mock academics and suggest that degrees are a waste of time; a culture that focuses more on testing than on knowledge and critical thinking… No, we tend to feel embattled by one another.

And while there are situations that rise to the level of something serious–assault, threat, harassment, etc., most people’s…

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May 1, 2013, 7:26 pm

Resurrection time

resurrectSince spring is a time for resurrections, or so my Christian friends tell me, I thought I would come back to the bloggy world after almost a year’s absence. If you can’t tell, my administrative position has represented an incredibly difficult and time-consuming shift. I used to try to blog once a week, but I had trouble finding the time to do that in my new job. I have also struggled with not using this blog as a place to discuss work-related issues, because that would be unfair to the people I supervise and the students who are part of the program I oversee. How Matt Reed, aka Dean Dad, does it, I will never know. All I can fathom is that he is far more skilled, has more years of experience in administration, and follows a routine better than I could ever hope to do.

I have learned so many things that you hear about in leadership trainings, but that mean little until the rubber meets…

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January 15, 2013, 7:31 pm

Why I am okay with Jodie Foster’s speech

Like my friend, Tenured Radical, and millions of other folks, I spent part of my time this weekend watching the Golden Globe awards. While I skipped the red carpet, as that kind of “Who are you wearing? How does it feel to be nominated?” drivel doesn’t interest me, I wanted to learn about the television shows and movies I have missed, due to the craziness of my still relatively new role as an academic administrator.  I wasn’t disappointed, as there were many movies and television shows that I had never seen, and a few that were completely off my radar. Some of the actors who were nominated for awards were people I had only heard of in passing (such as the funny and tattooed Lena Dunham who is apparently on a highly regarded show, “Girls”), whereas others I recall from movies or television shows long ago (I fondly remember Claire Danes from “My so-called life,” but have never seen her…

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January 3, 2013, 9:04 am

Dream job? Maybe. Necessary resource? Definitely.

Since the time I started my job as an administrator, I have had more than my fair share of conversations with the university counsel. Along with the wonderful folks in Human Resources, the folks in the University Counsel’s office have helped to address all kinds of unexpected issues that arise in my new administrative life.

My experience with university legal counsel has been complicated, dating back to my time as a graduate student. In those days, I was upset about some programmatic decision the administrators in my program were trying to implement–one that I felt amounted to exploitation of the graduate students. I had heard that the university had a legal clinic that helped students with their legal concerns. Of course, I didn’t understand that the law school’s legal clinic was more interested in helping students deal with their landlords, and, more importantly, that the…

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November 24, 2012, 3:45 pm

Been there, done… what?

I am at home this weekend grading papers, and as always, I see practices that remind me of myself as a clueless undergraduate. One student handed in a paper with the top left corner folded over, because she couldn’t seem to find a stapler or a paper clip. I cannot tell you how many times I did that… though it is hard to imagine doing that now.

Another student misunderstands academic writing culture and gives me a reflective paper full of “this writer believes” and ten-dollar words that obscure rather than illuminate the concepts he wants to discuss. I remember thinking that academic writing had to be complicated, and that using long sentences, preferably with a semi-colon or colon thrown in, would yield a higher grade. Good teachers and papers full of red ink helped me curb that practice.

The point, though, is that I understand where my students are coming from, especially the…

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October 9, 2012, 4:51 pm

Fishing in the stocked pond

Idyllic stock pond

Stocked ponds have always been a strange phenomenon from my perspective. If you have enough money and land, you can dig yourself a pond and then hire someone to dump fish in it for you to catch at some later time. So, someone already caught the fish, or perhaps raised the fish in a fishery, and they are now delivering them to you so you can try to catch them yourself. It is like hunting, but they bring the game to your neighborhood. Perhaps I am more likely to be critical of the practice, though, due to my own squeamishness about baiting the hook–or the disgusting sound of tearing the hook out of the fish’s flesh. Truthfully, I am not one to see the innate lure of fishing (pun intended), even if it is in one’s backyard.

Hiring in academe, though, especially from the perspective of the…

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September 3, 2012, 10:16 am

Washroom etiquette

Note: Your fair blogger is reading one of the Parasol Protectorate novels, and she has been bitten by the Victorian bug of manners and etiquette. Hence, I shall be channeling this post via Ms. Tarabotti, who is somewhat repulsed by the washroom behaviors of the modern academic female. (The pictures, though, are the product of LesboProf herself.) That said, if the readers’ own sensibilities are offended by the topic, please feel free to ignore this particular blog entry and move on to another.**

The worst thing about my new position is the loss of a private washroom. (Yes, I know that we Americans call it a bathroom, but washroom seems so much more civilized, doesn’t it? Bless the Canadians and their quaint ways.) Whereas few academics have private washrooms, most academic buildings these days have some single-stall restrooms scattered throughout the building. Those single stalls serve…

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August 10, 2012, 12:16 pm

Trust is a gift I choose to give

I read the Chronicle essay by “Edwina Martin” with a sense of recognition and sadness. A friend that Martin trusted secretly applied for the full-time position where Martin was currently serving in a one-year role. Both women actively discussed their search processes, though the friend didn’t reveal her plan to apply, and Martin’s friend pumped her for information about the institution, the students, the department, etc. Of course, the friend ultimately got the job. It was a very unfortunate situation, and Edwina notes that they aren’t friends any longer. She concludes her essay endorsing silence and cynicism:

In the end, I will simply chalk it up to a live-and-learn experience. If I had to do it all over again, I would have kept my mouth shut and said nothing to anyone about the position. I wouldn’t have been so blindly trusting and naive either.

There are so many problems with this…

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July 24, 2012, 2:31 pm

They’re here!

Just like the ghosts in Poltergeist, you may not see your new faculty, but they are around.

Just to remind everyone: those faculty members you hired last spring from somewhere far, far away? They are actually moving to your town, setting up their utilities and newspaper delivery (if anyone still gets a hard copy newspaper), working on their syllabi, and finding the closest restaurants/movie theaters/post offices/etc. They *and any accompanying family members* could also be lonely in their new place, if they have no connections to friends or family in the area.

I have had some horrible moving experiences and some good ones, and contact with the people from my new department made a real difference. In our first big move, we arrived in the small college town on July 4th weekend. Our new home–the first we had ever …

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July 15, 2012, 10:41 am

Summer in administration: A fine kettle of fish

When I used to be a faculty member with no administrative responsibilities, summers were filled with the excitement of free time for projects, travel, and relaxation (“Look at all the free time I will have!”). Blog posts in early June were filled with plans. By now, in mid-summer, the to-do list would look longer than the time allotted to it, having spent part of the time visiting family and friends, taking care of overlooked tasks at home, and just trying to relax and enjoy a little vaca. Blog posts inevitably turned to how to get back on track, finish some of the looming research and writing, and eke out the last little bit of fun from the summer before the semester (and course prep) begins anew.

Summer as a full-time administrator is a whole different kettle of fish. I was honestly worried I would hate it. First, I still have to get up (on time!) and go to the office, every day. I …

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