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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Colleague losing his mind  (Read 3594 times)
alleyoxenfree
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Countin' all these posts as publications


« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2012, 1:45:21 PM »

On edit: frankly, the title of this thread is ugly, and it ought to be changed by the mods.  Even early Alzheimers sufferers and stroke victims, neither of which you know he is, ought be accorded a modicum of respect on a professional forum.

I thought it was a reference to the book Losing My Mind, which is a devasattingly human first hand account of Alzheimer's.

Using the phrase first-person is substantially different from using the phrase in regards to someone else.  Any academic ought to be familiar with that discussion.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2012, 5:50:01 PM »

If he's in your department and teaching students in your major, I don't understand how this is "not your responsibility", fiona.

Chime. Chat with your chair if she is to be trusted and go from there.

Yep.  It is your problem because you are a member of the group.
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I've joined a bizarre cult called JordanCanonicalForm's Witnesses.  I have to go from door to door asking people things like, "Good evening, sir!  Do you have a moment to chat about Linear Transformations?"
spork
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« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2012, 5:53:39 PM »

I vote for discussing the matter with your chairperson.
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galactic_hedgehog
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« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2012, 8:12:22 PM »

Is there anyone you know with closer ties to him with whom you can inquire as to "how Oliver is doing?"

Does he have a wife or partner?  I would start with him or her.  Or grown kids, if there are any and you know how to get in-touch with them.

GH, grandson of an Alzheimer's sufferer
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terpsichore
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2012, 1:55:15 PM »

I think human compassion requires intervening, probably starting with your department chair. What looks like early symptoms of Alzheimer's can also be symptoms of some other diseases.  I hope this works out okay for you and your colleague.
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macadamia
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« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2012, 11:31:30 AM »

I know a similar case where a formerly excellent teacher and mentor was not asked by the department to step down. It was not fair to several years' worth of students involved. When he finally decided himself that he could not teach anymore, he committed suicide.

It's hard to say what the moral is. It is quite hazardous in many ways to be the one who tells the sick person that they are irrevocably unable to do what they want to do even if your judgment is correct and founded on evidence. But there is something fundamentally wrong in repaying a great teacher by helping him inflicting bad teaching on others.
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A drunk man will find his way home, but a drunk bird may get lost forever.  Shizuo Kakutani
amlithist
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« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2012, 1:12:11 PM »

When I was chair, I had to deal with a similar situation.  My adjunct faculty member was in his 80s, already badly slipping mentally, and then underwent heavy chemo for cancer, which further drastically altered him mentally.  He would get lost in the hallways, forget where he was going, spend much of the first 10 minutes of class packing and unpacking his briefcase and fumbling with papers, either reteach the same material several times or skip entire sections, couldn't reliably put two sensible sentences together  (and he was teaching our lowest dev ed, who couldn't afford to have someone who didn't have it together as their teacher).  But, of course, he was an old crony of the prior chair and beloved among the "in" clique.  I limped along with him that first fall, then "didn't have any classes" in spring (and our enrollment was truly down); come fall, I didn't call him back, and caught holy hell from him, cronies, and all for taking out my (non-existent) revenge against prior chair on this guy, being ageist, etc. etc. etc. 

The real trigger came when I did an observation of his class one day, and he said any number of incredibly offensive off-color things that, had his students been savvy enough, could have gotten him, our dept., and the school sued to high heaven for racial discrimination/hate speech.  (I kept jumping in to rephrase/correct/redirect him, but finally ended up taking over the class and sending him to the office on the ruse that he had to leave early for a dr. appointment--awful, I know, but the best I could come up with on the spot.  I then had a long talk w/the class to smooth things over.)

On the other hand, I'd also been this guy's supervisor in prior years.  He was OK, but not great, then.  I knew from those days, and through that fall, that students weren't being served, but neither the chair nor dean wanted to hear it because they didn't want to deal with it.  I had his students in my office regularly--and I mean, at least one a week, often more--complaining about his teaching and/or scared to death he was going to drop over dead in the classroom, and what should they do if he did?  (They weren't being cruel:  this guy looked to be at death's door, and I similarly worried.)  When I became chair, I asked if I could get him out of the classroom, and the dean was glad to let me--she knew it needed to be done.  Of course, this was just one of the many sins I committed as chair, and that's fine:  he had no business "teaching" anymore.

Personally, I felt like hell about having to do this.  I really liked him, and to this day (if he can remember me) I'm sure he hates me.  Still, my replacement won great acclaim by immediately hiring him back--and what the hell, they're just students, right?  In any event, I did what had to be done for the good of all concerned, but it would have been miserable, had I not just put it at arms'-length and done it (i.e., if I'd given a damn).  A good chair does what has to be done, though, even if it's hard, and even if it's not popular. 

I guess I just wanted to offer a perspective from the other side of the door.  And I do agree:  the chair/dean need to step in.  Being nice is not always being kind; often it isn't.
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usukprof
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« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2012, 1:35:53 PM »

I find it really stunning that the dean didn't have the balls to help you out, and that he would be hired back after the chair rotated away from you.  Given that he was an adjunct this should have been easy to solve.  Much harder to do for someone on tenure who won't leave, beyond not assigning them classes and letting them suck up the faculty line.
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Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.  --Dean Vernon Wormer
amlithist
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« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2012, 1:58:35 PM »

UsUKProf, you hit on a really good point:  the use of a faculty line. 

As to my situation:  it'd be nice if this had been the most egregious problem I faced.  Unfortunately....anyway, I'm glad I'm out of there. 

Still, it isn't an easy decision to make, particularly with a FT, long-term colleague, I'm sure.  Fiona, sorry to hear that you're witnessing this, as it has to be weighing on you, too.
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terpsichore
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« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2012, 2:09:30 PM »

It's obviously not good for the students to allow someone to continue to teach under these circumstances. But it's also unkind to the faculty person.  If someone was a good or even competent teacher and scholar, the memory of that legacy can be erased by these events.
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