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Summer in administration: A fine kettle of fish

July 15, 2012, 10:41 am

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 have to work (every day!)… Oh, the humanity!! I have come to find, though, that year-round administrative work isn’t quite as bad as I expected it would be.

The daily business of the university continues throughout the year, though now it moves at a slower, quieter, summer pace. Faculty drift in and out sporadically, and it is nice to get to visit with them without being interrupted by students, other faculty, the phone, and other mishegoss. I don’t resent faculty their time away, and, in fact, I am enjoying the break from their everyday complaints  interruptions.

I am also enjoying not feeling guilty as I watch my partner head off to work every day. It feels pretty indulgent to be sitting at home for three months, even if I am working on research, writing, and class prep some of that time. Many years of “faculty summers” caused her to get a little grumpy with me when the spring semester would end. And I would get grumpy with her desire to plan my days, since I was “home with a flexible schedule.” People hired to make repairs at the house, take returns at stores, and mail packages got to know me well in the summers. But this year, we both are at work every day, and it feels, well, kind of like normal couples, both of whom are not university faculty, must feel. We enjoy our nights, processing over dinner about what went on at work, and we spend our weekends together eating fresh tomatoes from the produce stand, hanging out at the house, and having fun with friends.

One real pleasure of coming to work in the summer is getting to know the other 12-month folks more deeply. They are a fantastic group of people: administrative assistants, receptionists, IT support staff, administrators from other departments, and so on. With this slower pace, we actually have time to talk about everyone’s families, people’s experiences at the university, and recommendations for food, entertainment, and other attractions in my adopted community.

Another nice thing about summer on campus is getting to dress more casually. I am never what one would call a “suit woman”; I am not butch enough to pull off the manly suit and not thin enough to be the svelte newscaster type. Plus, suits are too many layers for me. I tend to get warm in the office, and I wind up taking off the jacket anyway. And I hate “girl shoes” (i.e., pumps or anything with much heel, except boots) and hose, and suits don’t really work with my Birks. (What?? I am a lesbian with wide, flat feet. It is mandated that I wear Birkenstocks.) But as an administrator, there is the assumption that I will “dress professionally” in the workplace during the academic year, and most days, I do (as much as a Birkenstock-wearing lesbian who eschews suits can manage.) But summer! Summer allows shorts, capri pants, light fun tops, modest sundresses, etc. The choices are awesomeness, and each outfit works fine with my Birkenstock sandals.

Some things haven’t changed in my move to administration. The summer still seems to be moving too quickly. Many projects have sucked up time this summer: office moves, accreditation and administrative reports, program-related data collection and analysis, budget review (for 2011-2012) and preparation (for 2012-2013), staff hiring, and the like. Going to the office provides a regular work schedule, something that actually is quite helpful to getting work done. I also hope to get some of my own research written up in the quiet times, along with pulling together a new course prep. (Someday, I will learn to stop with the new courses already… No, really, I will.) I feel good that I have gotten a lot done, without the stress or anxiety common during the academic year.

Lest you think I am an all-work kind of woman, I am planning something of a stay-cation before the summer ends, when I can detach from work and chill out at home for a week or so. I may take a short day trip or two, but I am hoping to go to the movies, eat out with friends, and just enjoy summer in my new-ish town. And I have also been taking random days to work at home, here and there, to get a chance to focus, more-or-less uninterrupted, on my writing. (I find that hourly checks on email and answering my cell phone–called only for pressing business–are not a big disruption to my work, and they are better than the regular interruptions at the office.)

All in all, I am surprised to report that I am enjoying my summer in administration. I thought I would miss my summers as a faculty member, but I find that, for the most part, I am pretty comfortable being a year-round administrator and office person. Who knew?

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