1.7.14

TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY.

It has long been my position that in higher education, June, July, and August are for thinking.  The administrivia can wait.
And why might everyone's calendar be full during the school year? Might there be a connection between down-sizing the faculty, asking the remaining faculty to teach more sections with more students, subjecting that faculty to more inquisitions from various advisory offices keeping track of the progress of special-admissions students as well as requiring attendance at mandatory harassment or diversity training sessions or seeking participants for focus groups?
It's the duty of faculty members to resist those intrusions either passively or aggressively. (That means, inter alia, taking shared governance seriously and reclaiming management prerogatives to departmental and college governing bodies, rather than letting deanlets and deanlings usurp those duties.)
What is the sound of Atlas, shrugging? In the academy, is it a growing reluctance of faculty to volunteer to do extra, unpaid work, during the summer session as the administrators become more intrusive and arbitrary in their demands on faculty during the nine months they are under contract? Does the absence of any rewards for greater productivity (couple those enlarged teaching loads with higher enrollments and minimal merit raises) make the faculty more protective of their own time than they otherwise would be?
I'm out.

But there are others still in the fight to protect their thinking time.
I’m not referring here to that pesky research and writing stuff that we have to conduct on our own time. I’m referring to much of the routine and mundane work that, while not necessarily difficult, can shred our scholarly productivity and our vacation time over the summer months. I refer to the likes of emails from within our universities that cannot go unanswered until August, curriculum revisions that cannot be undertaken during the primary academic semesters of fall and spring, the minutiae of keeping up.

How do we preserve the boundaries between the work that we are paid to undertake during nine-month appointments and the routine business that keeps the university running and cannot be ignored for one-quarter of the calendar year?

Some universities handle these situations in more ethical ways than others. Often, in states where faculty are unionized, faculty members with administrative responsibilities that create work over the summer months are often converted into 10- or 11-month employees, which prevents them from having the 40-hour-per-week accountability of 12-month employees (such as department chairs) but also compensates them for the inevitable work that they will have to carry out over the summer. Such arrangements, while not shielding the faculty member from summer work entirely, are at least fair in that the individual is compensated for the work during the summer months, work that is not expected of most of their colleagues.
The article offers a four-step program for scholars who wish to get their creative work done.  (These suggestions will also reward careful study for individuals on the corporate treadmill who would like some work-life balance).  1.  Do your thinking away from the office.  With the internet, a home study is a good productive place.  Or find a bolt-hole in a library, or a coffee house.  2.  Don't precrastinate.  (Always possible to learn a new word!)  3.  Limit your use of electronic mail.  (It's not that difficult to acclimate people to the idea that you are not checking before noon, after 4.30, or on weekends at all, even during the academic year).  4.  Set those boundaries, and enforce them.

And don't get suckered by that "routine necessary business" scam.  "Summer shut-down has been a fact of life for what, 100 years? And in that time nobody has figured out how to deal with most of the routine business by May 15?"

I suspect the friend I made after I picked a fight with him over retaining control of my work life will not agree.  But we'll disagree in a collegial way.

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