Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dr. Python asks a question. Don't pretend to be a dean - answer her!

Here's my question:

How much academic hypocrisy is one suppose to tolerate before speaking up? 

My current example:  We (professorial underlings) are suppose to reply to snowflake emails within 24 hours.  However, the dean can wait weeks to reply to emails from professors. 

When is the adequate amount of time to "remind" adminiflakes that they are ignoring other issues (and no, it isn't an innocent oversight...trust me)? 

How does one play this game?

Dr. Python


  1. And administrative underlings too. Still waiting three weeks for a call back from the chick who approves travel reimbursements. THERE is some customer service for you!

    1. I'm afraid I can't be of much help here. When I was a mid-level admin flake (i.e., 12 yrs up until getting laid off due to state budget cuts last summer; still jobless as of now...), I could never get away with not responding. But those very same admin underlings who ignore(d) the faculty ignore(d) us on the admin side, too. Frustrating as all get out, especially when you work in a culture of capricious blame, rather than one of accountability/learning/improvement.

      Anywho, I don't think there's a way you *CAN* win, and there's *NO* adequate amount of time to remind your adminflakes. Why? Because they just. Don't. Care.

  2. Ugh. I have one of these. And he's the Dean of Students Who Make You Nervous, so it's not like a timely reply is necessary. "Hey, Stu had a very angry outburst in class yesterday. I'm reporting it to you so we can arrange a talk with him about anger management, as per the handbook, etc." And . . . three weeks later . . . maybe . . . an answer. At that point, Stu could have staged an invasion of Grenada.

    My solution is to make liberal and clear use of the CC line, sending copies to my chair, the VP of student affairs, campus security, and so on. That way at least I'm not the only one cooling my heels, and other people know it's going on.

  3. I suppose acting like our students and having a parent contact them might shock them into action.

  4. Only weeks? That's one of the better deans.

  5. As for the second question, I'm increasingly convinced that following up by phone is more effective than repeated mailing or sitting, waiting, and hoping.

    But the first question (academic hypocrisy) is a depressingly good one.
    For me, "students as customers" is the most egregious form of it, but differing expectations for those who have the customer service model forced upon them from those doing the forcing is a pretty good second.

  6. When I got my Ph. D., my department head sent me a congratulatory e-mail (though only because he thought he had to, not because he was pleased or being polite).

    Our dean was on the circulation list, but he never responded. At first, I thought it was because he forgot or he simply had bad manners (which he actually did). Later, I concluded it was his way of giving me the finger because that same dean hated me and was quite pleased when I finally resigned.

  7. My current favorite example of academic hypocrisy:
    Students and faculty have to back up their claims with peer-reviewed academic sources.
    Administrators can enact sweeping curricular changes based on a business book they bought at the airport. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/11/faculty-object-plan-replace-humanities-requirement-self-help-course

    1. My last department head loved Covey's books. Since the DH's main ambition was to be promoted as far and as fast as possible through the institution's pecking order, he thought that any hint that he adhered to what was written in those texts would score points with his masters. The senior administration, which was quick to adopt the latest pop psychology, probably believed him.

      But that's as far as it went. It was all a mirage, as I found out during one of my DH's numerous attempts to have me fired. He had pulled some sort of stunt to get at me which was not only against internal regulations but common courtesy as well. He justified it by hissing to me: "I *practice* principle-based living!" "Yeah, right," I thought, "and Napoleon Bonaparte's my grandpa...."

      But, in that place, managerial hypocrisy was quite common, so I wasn't surprised at what he did.

    2. Oh. Oh. My head. The pain. I just read the IHE article linked by Frankie Bow, above. A quote:

      "His interest centered on the 7 Habits as a framework for a soft skills course when he visited a local kindergarten class that follows the Leader In Me program. . . A little boy greeted Leslie at the door, shook his hand and showed him a 'data book' about his progress on individualized learning goals.

      "'That’s what I want,' [the chancellor] recalled thinking."

      Apparently, the chancellor runs his university according that other great tome, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

      That IHE article may merit a post of its own.

  8. Last year I had to deal with an annoying administrative procedure involving faculty committees, the dean and the provost, so I became very familiar with our Faculty Handbook. And throughout this document, the following is true: professors always have strict deadlines to act, or to respond with rebuttals (usually two weeks); adminiflakes have none . Not a single fucking deadline applies to them. And they use this to full advantage. In one case the provost sat on a faculty committee decision that went against the provost's wishes for two months, until finally I got word that the committee had received a response, with no copy to me. So I sent the provost an email asking for a copy, and got an email from the provost's secretary saying it had been sent by campus mail (sure, it arrived a week later.) The general attitude of adminiflakes here at all levels is to treat faculty like shit.

    So why is that? Because they can, because they want the faculty to know who runs things. Because the Faculty Senate is so ineffective and compliant. I don't call them adminiflakes for no reason, it's all executive-bullshit-this-or-that, making ridiculous salaries without contributing teaching or research, indeed contributing little of nontrivial value to the enterprise as a whole, and nothing that requires actual talent. Mostly mediocre scholars with good asskissing skills who found a second career.

    What can anyone do against it? What I do is delay my response to the last day allowed by the deadlines, and then make it as strongly worded, detailed and unassailable as compatible with civility. Luckily we don't have a `respond to email in 24h' policy, but if we did, I think what I'd do is set up a separate email account to interact with students in my classes, with an auto-response "per the syllabus, for assistance please come to my office hours or make an appointment in person, after class. I don't make appointments by email or telephone." I suppose this would be technically consistent with the policy.

    1. I know what you mean about adminflakes not responding in a timely manner.

      While I was finishing my Ph. D., my supervisor had the habit of not responding quickly to my paper memos or e-mail messages. One day, I thought I'd have a bit of fun, so I left a memo in his mail slot and signed it "The Maytag Repairman", recalling those ads from a generation or two ago in which they were portrayed as the loneliest guys in town.

      It took my supervisor 2 weeks to finally figure out who the memo was from. Somehow, I don't think he appreciated my humorous intent.

  9. Again, I want to speak up for tenure, the only bulwark against such bullshittery. But I love Peter K's idea of an automated message saying you don't make appointments or discuss academic business by e-mail.