I got out of XX

Miraculously, I got out doing XX. It turns out, Administrator #1 needed XX done during a particular time slot on a particular day and it was absolutely impossible for me to be on campus at the day/time. And of course, as I said earlier, there are lots of people on campus qualified to do XX, so it was pretty easy to find someone else to do it, which simply highlights the ridiculousness of the way it all came about that I was supposed to do XX.

To add to the ridiculousness of it all, I found out that the person who is doing XX is being paid to do it, whereas it was implied to me that I would be doing XX gratis.

This whole situation makes me angry about two different things. One is the cavalier way the two administrators scheduled me for something without talking to me or my supervisor about whether it was even appropriate for me to take this project on. Administrators at my institution seem very in the dark about faculty schedules and workloads. Administrators #1 and #2, for example, clearly didn’t understand that it was possible, even likely, that I wouldn’t be available at the time/day XX needed to be done. They also didn’t understand that teaching actually is a full time job and that you can’t just add a huge task with a firm, tight deadline without adequate notice.

The other is the inconsistency about who gets paid to do what. As a full-time faculty member, almost anything can be considered part of my workload, but technically, any time I do work that isn’t teaching or part of my administrative assignment or related to a committee I serve on, it can be considered “overload” (i.e. I get paid extra to do it) if I have to do it while I am off contract (this usually applies only to summer work) or if my supervisor and the Academic VP approve of it. This loosy-goosy policy basically means that if you complain a lot about a particularly onerous task, you can manage to get paid for doing it, and if you don’t, you’ll probably end up doing it without pay. So it if fairly typical for two people to do the same thing and one person gets paid for it and the other doesn’t, particularly if the two people have two different deans.

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 2:50 am  Leave a Comment  

looks like I’m doing XX

Explain to me how this happens:

Two low-level administrators at the college are talking. Neither is my supervisor or even in my division of the college. One says, “I wonder who could do XX for my department in a couple weeks.” XX is a project that would involve about 8-10 hours of work. It is something I would imagine about 30-40 people on campus are absolutely qualified to do.

The other administrator says, “GripeDoctor could do it. I’m sure she’d be very pleased to do it.”

So administrator #1 emails administrator #2 saying, “Can you confirm that GripeDoctor can do XX?”

Let me mention that at this point, I am oblivious to all this. I know nothing about any of this until administrator #2 replies to administrator #1’s email and ccs me. Administrator #2’s email goes like this: “As I said, I am sure GripeDoctor would be very pleased to do XX. Please contact her to arrange the details.”

That’s how I found out that I have been committed by administrator #2, who, I just want to emphasize, is not my supervisor, not familiar with my workload, etc., etc., etc., to doing XX. I don’t have time or energy for this, lots of other people are qualified, but because of the way this all came about, if I say no to doing XX, I will look like I am backing out of something.

I can’t count on Dean Know-It-All or Cool Chair to help me out here. Dean Know-It-All is all about pimping out her people and Cool Chair will fear that if I back out of XX, she’ll be tapped to do it. So I’m afraid I’m screwed.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  

academic isolation

A horrible realization I had recently goes like this:

My community college systematically isolates faculty from the outside world of academia. It’s not intentional, but I believe it is systematic, cultural, and deeply embedded in the practices of the place. I had this realization when I recently met up for drinks with some colleagues at another institution. They had all recently been to a department meeting in which they talked about other programs and each took “assignments” to follow up with more research on what other departments are doing. Their department celebrates members who publish, who present, and who interact with the larger academic community.

My institution—including every department and every program—grudgingly sends people to conferences and administration reveals no knowledge that sending someone to a conference is professional development and can possibly benefit the department or program or institution. Administration acts like sending someone to a conference is equivalent to sending them on a paid vacation. There is no expectation that the person will come back with anything of value, and in fact, if the person comes with something of value and wants a forum to share it with colleagues, administration labels that person a “diva” and tries to squelch their enthusiasm.

People are sent to conferences, but almost no one talks about what went on at their conferences because of the discouragement from administration.

One result is that my colleagues are completely out of touch with developments in their disciplines and developments in higher ed. A few of us fight for meaningful professional development and fight to share what we’ve learned with our colleagues, but our colleagues, it seems, are gradually socialized into this twisted system and begin to see us as “divas,” too, as if our wanting to share what we’ve learned is just a way to “brag” about our “expense paid vacations.” It’s disheartening, discouraging, depressing. . . .

The other faculty in my department are smart people, but they have had their drive to stay in touch with academic beyond our institution deadened. I am the “diva” of the department and I pay a price for that.

I crave the kind of environment my colleagues at the other institution have. They meet regularly as a department to discuss articles in the journals, to talk about theory and pedagogy, to gripe about students. They meet formally as a department, smaller groups of them meet informally over beer, and they have spirited conversations about things beyond the department’s budget or policies. They engage ideas that matter.

I am so envious it hurts.

Published in: on February 10, 2008 at 6:55 am  Leave a Comment  

I missed class, yada yada yada

Dear GripeDoctor,

I know you told us on the first day to get contact information from a few classmates in case we miss a class and need to get the notes from someone, but I didn’t do that. I missed the last class and now I need the notes. I have no idea what I need to have done for class tomorrow. I need you to get back to me as soon as possible so that I can be prepared for tomorrow’s class.


Ima Serious-Student

Dear Ima,

I am sorry you had to miss class, especially because I divided the class into groups for the group project I mentioned on the first day and now you are not part of a group. Since you didn’t bother to get contact information from anyone in the class, not only will you be unaware of what’s going on when you come to class tomorrow, but you will not be very popular with whichever group I end up adding you to. The other group members will, most likely, have spent part of the weekend preparing for today’s class and working on the group project; you will have done nothing and will have absolutely nothing to bring to the group’s discussion.

It sucks to be you.



Published in: on February 5, 2008 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

what to say to whom

Dean Dad gives excellent advice to folks who have applied for other positions but not yet received offers:

If you’re in a setting in which being ‘found out’ would be awkward but not fatal, I’d adopt a two-pronged strategy of “need to know” and “strategic evasion.” Tell only those folks you would need as references, and stress to them that you consider the matter confidential. When it leaks – which it will – simply don’t answer the question directly. Don’t lie, but don’t compromise yourself, either. “I have no plans to be anywhere else next year” is technically true, since you don’t have an offer in hand. (Administrators and politicians can do this in our sleep.) If your skeptical interlocutor keeps pressing, change the subject. Think of it as cultivating an air of mystery.

As far as I know, my dean doesn’t know that I’ve applied elsewhere, although ever since I finished my Ph.D., she’s been saying to me, “You won’t be around here much longer.” So she certainly suspects.

Dean Dad’s correspondent found him/herself in an icky situation when his/her chair, who knows of the job search, apparently mentioned it to another colleague who mentioned it to correspondent. This happens all the time. Many times I’ve told my dean something in confidence and been asked about it later by a colleague who apparently spoke to the dean. I don’t know if this kind of breech occurs in other workplaces, but it seems to be rampant in academia. As I said in my comment on Dean Dad’s blog,

I think it is extremely unprofessional for [the] chair to have mentioned [the job search] to a colleague and extremely unprofessional for the colleague to have said anything about it to [the job searcher]. But this is exactly what would happen at my institution. People can’t keep their mouths shut. The colleague should have said to the chair, “That is none of my business. I am going to pretend I don’t have this information,” and then should have erased it from his mind.

It’s called professional courtesy.

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m plagiarizing–is that a problem?

Dear Professor GripeDoctor,

I have a question about the research paper due tomorrow. I just found out from a classmate that we are supposed to cite our visual sources and I have only cited my text sources. I need to know if you will take points off for me not having my visual sources cited since I just got this information today.


Dear BigNuts69,

First, I would like to recommend that you use a different email account for your class-related emails. It is quite disconcerting for me to have to address your concerns seriously when all I can think about are your big nuts and your penchant for a particular sexual position.

Second, I am sorry to hear that you just became aware today of information I gave to the class ten weeks ago. I have told the class once in a handout, several times in class, and several times via email that all sources, including visual sources, must be cited. In addition, the class took a midterm quiz on citing sources and several of the questions concerned citing visual sources. I emphasized when I returned the graded quizzes the importance of noting which questions you missed and making sure you understood what the rules concerning citing sources are.

I am afraid that I will, indeed, hold you to the same standards as I hold those students who paid attention when I went over citing sources. Whether or not I would deduct points for your failure to cite some of your sources is immaterial. As I’ve stated in the syllabus, papers that exhibit plagiarism will earn the grade of F. Although you may dutifully cite your textual sources, as you yourself have said, you have not cited your visual sources. That, my friend, is plagiarism.

I urge you to take a few minutes and add the citations for your visual sources to your works cited list.

Professor GripeDoctor

Published in: on November 29, 2007 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment  

no thank you

Is saying thank you that hard? Apparently it is. Witness:

  • A professor at another institution contacted me because someone at her institution went to a presentation I did and thought I might be able to help her with something she was working on. She asked me some questions, I answered them, and I thought that was the end of it. The next day, she called me and basically said, “I don’t have time to deal with this, I need you to do it.” I politely told her I didn’t have time. The next day, she called again, again telling me she “needed” me to follow up on something. Hello—I don’t work for her or with her. I was doing her a goddamn favor! She called me six times in all and emailed a couple times—I helped as much as I could, given that I have a job and have my own tasks to keep me busy. I was as polite as I could be, given the circumstances. After all that, did I get a thank you? No. As far as I can tell, she’s pissed off at me for not “helping” her more (i.e. doing her job for her).
  • A student at my institution who is not actually my student brought me a very long and troubled draft for a class he is in. He said he would appreciate my feedback on it because he had heard that I “give good comments.” So I spent an hour reading and responding to the paper and emailed him my comments. I saw him several times in the days following and he never said a word about the paper. Finally, I said, “Did you receive my emailed comments?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” Just like that. No thank you. No acknowledgement that I did something nice.

It’s not like I want people to fawn all over me and thank me for every little damn thing I do, but come on, people, if I go out of my way for you, couldn’t you at least acknowledge what I’ve done with two simply little words???

Published in: on November 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

today’s gripe

Students who turn in work three weeks late that they obviously wrote yesterday (because their work makes reference to a class discussion we just had)—and claim that they thought they turned it in when it was due and have been wondering all this time when I would return it. Yeah, right. Exactly how stupid do they think I am?

Published in: on November 9, 2007 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  

profs are a dime a dozen

More on the dust up over whether it’s ok to look for a job once you have one. Slaves of Academe notes that “because in the end, they (the university, your department, whatever) couldn’t give a shit, and will use and abuse you, then discard you like the first wife.” Ain’t that the truth. Face it, English profs are practically a dime a dozen. If I leave, I can easily be replaced.

Published in: on November 8, 2007 at 1:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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to market, to market

As I said in the sidebar, I’ve been at Middleland long enough to get tenure, get comfortable, and get bitter. Funny how the bitterness just kind of crept up. One day I was fat and happy and the next I was gearing up for a job search. Nothing in particular has happened to inspire my job search, beyond the unsettling realization that I am bored in my job. In my opinion, there is almost nothing worse than a bored faculty member, so I have taken my boredom as a wake up call.

Given my entry onto the job market, I’ve been fascinated by the discussion over at Dr. Crazy’s about whether or not looking for a job when you already have one constitutes treason. I’ve been on my share of search committees and the hiring institution does invest a fair amount of resources in a search. But, come on, an institution would be insane to think that once a person is hired, the decision to sever the relationship can only be made by the institution. That’s not good for anyone, including the institution.

In my particular case, my institution has been generally good to me and I have mostly positive feelings about the place. I genuinely respect and admire my colleagues and students (admittedly, I have mostly negative feelings about the administration—just in case you thought I wasn’t actually the GripeDoctor). But as I said, I’m bored and that ain’t a good thing for either me or my institution. Not that I’m doing the institution a favor by looking for another job, but I think people like the insane senior faculty who are posting comments to Dr. Crazy about her being selfish to look for another job are missing the point. It isn’t good for an institution to have unhappy or unfulfilled faculty.

Is there a possibility my boredom will pass and I should stick it out with Middleland? I’ve considered this possibility. I have been happy here for many years. But in the last couple of years, I’ve been asked by my institution to turn down a few excellent professional opportunities, opportunities that would allow me to have a larger presence in the profession at large. These types of opportunities will dry up if I keep turning them down, and every time I turn one down I sink deeper into boredom and deeper into bitterness about the limits my current institution puts on my career. Is my attitude healthy for me? No. Is it beneficial to my institution? Again, the answer is no. Clearly, it’s time for me to move on.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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