Monday, April 21, 2014

How NOT to award an Award

Here at Big Time R1 we have annual teaching awards that are peer-nominated. They entail a mid 4-figure check, a $1K base salary bump, a nice plaque and the public praise of Administration at a catered event.
I've had good success at nominating colleagues; all three I've initiated in the last five years won. The package is extensive and takes a good deal of time, so I'm happy to work on it when my colleagues win. Not sure how I'll feel when/if they lose.

This year's nomination was met with silence for a full month after the time the awards are usually announced. Finally, we found out that this year's nominee won because our payroll person got a memo to increase the nominee's base salary by $1K. Three days later, the nominee got an email that simply said: "Please read the attachment in regard to your selection as a Teaching Award recipient." The attachment was a pdf of the official award letter from on high, with all details about the ceremony. Said letter came in hard copy on letterhead three additional days later by interdepartment mail.

What a hamhanded way to let people know they had won a major award. How hard would it have been for someone to telephone the winners right away? There are ten of them, but still... The Administration office that handles the awards has an interim head, and is somewhat short staffed, but still... The payroll office asks the department chair about an unusual raise and the chair then asks the recipient if she heard anything and she hasn't, so we all wait three more days until a cryptic email gets sent with an official letter attached?

When such things happen, all I can do is sing our unofficial Big Time R1 song:

M I C...K E Y...M O U S E! (You know the tune.)

-- Old Fart Prof


  1. Just wow. This reminds me of another "How Not to" : How NOT to deal with the sudden resignation of a chairperson who has been at the college for 40+ years: Do NOT simply replace the person over winter break, and make no announcement. People will wonder if the person died. Do NOT get defensive when asked about it, saying you did not know whether the person would want you to say anything. People will notice anyway! Do NOT fail to introduce the faculty member who became Chair over the break (as replacement) simply because you are too awkward to figure out how to deal with this.

    These kinds of things, sir, are why YOU get paid the big bucks.

    At the very least, you ought to be able to figure something out!

  2. This reminds me of what happened when I got my Ph. D. My colleagues at the place where I used to each gave me a congratulatory card and even decorated my office. My department head sent an e-mail message to everyone acknowledging the event, though, considering how much he disliked me, it must have given him pain to do that.

    Our dean was on the e-mail circulation list. Guess who remained silent? Zippo. Zilch. Absolutely nothing.

    At first, I thought it was because he may have been busy and had forgotten to say something. He didn't like me, either, so it may have ended up in his "round tuit" file. In hindsight, I surmised that he was merely being insulting. During my remaining time at that institution, he never acknowledged my doctorate.

  3. How they award this award says a lot about the priority of teaching at your R1. It could be worse, too. Whenever Nobel Prizes are announced, some dickhead will immediate call the recipients, which if they're in California will be at 4 a.m. Richard Feynman relates the experience, and the media circus the next day, in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman."

  4. I agree it wasn't well handled. But admins don't give out teaching awards to honour teachers. Admins give out teaching awards so they can pat themselves on the back and preen about how much they "care" about teaching. The awardee is just a prop. Then they go back to cutting budgets.

    1. And, on the departmental level, it's back to business as usual. Often, the administrators go back to kicking the prof or instructor in the butt. It serves as a reminder not to let the award go to his or her head.