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Random thoughts at the end of the semester

December 16, 2011, 4:12 pm

I have tried to write this blog entry at least three times. One problem is that my first version was waaaayyy too revealing about personal stuff going on in my life. While I used to do that in my original blog, which I used to process feelings and challenges as I was trying to get pregnant during my first administrative job, I eliminated the old personal stuff when I flipped to the Chronicle blog and I have avoided anything that would be personally or professionally problematic for me if I decided to stop blogging under the pseudonym. So, with that filter on my personal and professional lives, I can’t seem to figure out one focus for a blog entry. Rather than letting another week slip by, then, I am posting a gathering of random thoughts.

  • Why does every school that is interviewing faculty in the Midwest, deep South, the rural North, and Southeast refer to itself as in “the buckle of the Bible Belt”? It really isn’t possible for the belt to have that many buckles, and it would be a very haphazard and wide belt that stretches through Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri… Some research shows “two belts,” one Northern and one Southern, so perhaps that would lead to two buckles. The whole buckle thing seems to really just be shorthand for “people around here are conservative as hell.”
  • Are December (and August) graduations really worth it for anyone, other than students in specialized programs that are designed to end in those months? My students have always chosen to walk with their cohort, usually the spring before they really graduate. It seems like we could all save time and money and just have the single graduation each year.

 

  • Co-workers are not necessarily your friends, though sometimes they can be, and the faculty and staff who report to you definitely aren’t. This became clear twice this week: once when I heard some personal news and needed to process, and once when I encountered a new friend/peer from across campus who had also gotten very bad news. My colleagues caught be in the hall and took a few minutes to process his news with me. I was glad he told me, and I provided as much support and confidential processing time as I could.  As for my news, I quickly got off campus and called longtime friends. I didn’t really want people to worry about me, think about this news, or talk about it behind my back, so I kept my mouth shut while here, even though I was sort of upset. My own POV: Unless your news affects the people with whom you work, you don’t really need to share it with them… even if you are an external processor like my colleague and me.
  • For those in new schools: Don’t assume that just because every school you have ever freakin’ known has done something–conduct a faculty search, manage student complaints, or hire PT faculty–a specific way, that your new school will do it the same way. Don’t expect that other people will make decisions in a way that make practical sense. Don’t assume that professional or institutional bad habits have ever been addressed before, but don’t assume they haven’t, either. Okay, so I am learning every day not to assume even the most basic things, but to check and check again to insure that things are being done in a way that (a) makes sense and (b) fits with the culture and mission of the unit and the institution.
  • When candidates come in for jobs, if you are VERY lucky, there is one consensus pick. Everyone leaves their interactions with the candidate very impressed, and discussions among faculty/staff go quickly and without discord. I LOVE it when that happens. Is it just about a stellar candidate, clear shared expectations, or some combination thereof?
  • Work holiday parties are fun, but a few reflections on my experiences with these parties. First, it is very difficult to ensure they don’t become a huge Christmas party. ) As our friends at Straight No Chaser will tell you, “It’s not fair if you’re Jewish”…or Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, or a nonbeliever. That said, see if you can keep from smiling when you watch their version of the Christmas Can Can.  Second, IMHO, this picture nonwithstanding, just forgo the alcohol at work holiday gatherings. It adds nothing but risk. If you are an administrator somewhere that people want booze, just have your meet and greet at a local bar and leave before people get drunk.
  • Advice I plan to take this year: Take some time over winter break to have fun and relax, because the beginning of the semester will come with a vengeance: student enrollment issues, admissions for next year, hiring, budget reversals, tenure and promotion processes, year-end evaluations, etc. await all of us in the new year. And if you can, plan a vacation now so you have something to look forward to!

Okay, that is all from here. Hope all the grades are in, paperwork submitted, and early monthly checks coming soon!

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