Friday, August 3, 2012

Shutting down shop

Anyone still on some sort of feed for this site will have already reached this conclusion, but my planned ultimate post has failed to materialize, and now I find myself so swamped with administrative work that I don't see myself completing it anytime soon. I'll therefore sign off here.

If I ever come out on the other side after serving as chair and return to some forum like this one, I'll have a new perspective on the sorts of issues I've discussed here. So far I've been struck by two big things. The first is how damn hard people in these administrative positions have to work to simply keep things afloat.  This summer, for many reasons (retirements, budget cuts, a new push to eliminate classes failing to meet the 5/10/15 rule, etc.) has been a particularly chaotic time.  So far nothing has prepared me for being an administrator as well as helping to lead a faculty strike--where the various sorts of chaos and personnel issues we were dealing with were similarly straining and draining. The camaraderie among union confreres was of course oh so much warmer; it's not that I've had any unpleasant interactions with administrative superiors so far, by the way, rather the opposite. It's just that the hierarchy of administration means that too often I'm either asking for money or telling people I don't have money, neither of which makes for bonhomie. Also, no chants so far, or funny signs, though the absence of student worker funding tempted me to go looking for one of those "Qualified Substitute Instructors" puppets to staff the front desk in our department office.

The second thing this sort of work gives one is a greater awareness of the effects of administrative decisions, especially the more dubious ones. Some of these have had the ironical effect of making administrative work itself harder, as centralization, at least in some aspects, seems to have done; every hiring decision (including part-time NTTs and GAs) has to be approved through so many levels that nothing happens as quickly as it could. On the other hand, I find myself wanting to centralize more in my department, at the risk of hypocrisy. Centralization isn't always bad. And some of my old hobby horses infuriate me all the more now. As I walk to my office in Faner, I look out at the $1.25 million Faner Piazza Project, and find myself quickly thinking how much stronger my department's offerings would be next year had we, say, one more NTT, costing $40,000. Did we really need to spend all that money on concrete walks and flower beds?  Is the best way to improve our famously inefficient student services—matters that I as a chair get sucked into rather more often than I did in my halcyon days as a mere faculty member—to spend millions on a new building to house these services?  Here too, sometimes, no doubt, I'll learn that a procedure or decision I would otherwise have experienced only as a skeptical outsider, and found deplorable, makes more sense when viewed from the administrative angle. And sometimes not. We'll see; it will be an learning experience.

As has been blogging. Thanks for reading and commenting.