Friday, February 25, 2011

Fritz from Framingham is Frustrated.

Fritz Wondering
Where Hal Goes.
It's not my students. They're pretty cool and work pretty hard. But I can't say the same for my next door colleague Half-a-Day Hal.

Hal is full time just like me. But he's NEVER here. He strolls in a few minutes late every day, getting to his class 5-10 minutes after it's supposed to start. He's back in his office before the class time is up. He shuffles in there for a few minutes, pokes his head around to ask if I want coffee from the caf, and then leaves his office for almost the entirety of his office hour.

He strolls back eating a bear claw, gives a wave, and is back out the door again before his office hours are over.

He doesn't seem frazzled or bothered. He has a grin almost all of the time. I suspect his stress level is quite a bit lower than mine. I assume he's doing an okay job in class because his students seem to like him - when they do find him in.

When the chair comes around in the afternoon with some random act of servitude, he looks at Hal's door and finds it's closed, and says instead, "Hey, Fritz. I need someone to sit on the Rock Toting Committee." Of course I'm in my office. I keep the number of hours the handbook requests. And I'm here longer than that, too, grading, meeting with students, whatever.

Half-a-Day Hal and I are both tenure track. You'd think he'd be aiming at keeping a job, but everyone seems to like him. "That Hal," people say, admiringly. Are they fucking kidding?


  1. Time to get somebody outside your department to look into this. If you trust your dean's office, that would be best. Since this impacts students, maybe the dean of students would be interested.

    Unfortunately, professional courtesy will prevail and they won't set up a sting operation to catch this joker in mid-bite of his bearclaw but at least he will reform his ways.

    Being late to class or missing office hours won't show up at tenure review unless there's a string of complaints from students. You don't want this joker around forever so fix the problem now.

  2. Welcome to academia, Fritz. This is the story of my life. I do my job, and take it seriously, so I end up doing the work off all the fucking slackers who are home changing the font on their CV, or visiting their analyst, or whatever the hell they do all day. The person who is in their office when no one else is wastes their whole day answering questions from people who stroll by, and when tenure time comes, the fool will get tenure and you'll be told that you wasted too much time on trivial things. Rat him out! Send an anonymous letter to the chair - pretend you are one of his students.

  3. When it isn't office hours, keep the door shut and don't answer when someone knocks. Otherwise, resign yourself to being easy prey for the rock toting people.

    Hal is a fuckwit, no question, but unless you want to follow the Beaker's advice and try to get him jacked up for his fuckwittery, you have to figure out a way to ignore it. As you pointed out, his stress level is low. You can't force him to be the colleague you want him to be, so you need to figure out how to let it go and focus on your own mental and physical well-being.

    That's my nickel (two cents adjusted for inflation).

  4. Sounds like my colleague across the hall. He just got tenure...30 something snowflake with tenure. I second Archie's suggestion close your door. I started doing that a few years ago and it made all the difference.

  5. Archie's right. Don't be available.

  6. I agree with Archie: Shut your door. If you office has a window on the outside world, leave your lights off.

    On the Devil's Advocate side of things--maybe Hal is available to his students via email, which they seem to prefer anyway. He may work at home (I have a number of colleagues who prefer their home office environments--they keep office hours, but do the bulk of their own work off-campus. I would do this, but I live too far away, and I have two kids who make working at home a logistical impossibility.)

    I'd also suggest that you don't compare yourself to Hal, as it will only give you an ulcer. Keep your head down, do your good work, and try to find your own work-life balance.

  7. @Fritz: Do you actually like working there? Do you really want to work at a place where everybody tolerates and loves this good-for-nothing idiot? Can you single-handedly change the culture of that place? Those are questions I would be asking. Do you actually want to be a tenured proffie at a place with a bunch of losers?

    Maybe Hal isn't really such a bum. Is he publishing? Does he provide a service to anybody at the school? Are you envious of him? Is that what this is really about? Maybe he appears to not be doing much, but at least he's not stabbing you in the back.

    I need more context. Fess up.

  8. I have a colleague like this. He's well known for showing films in his class, so his students love him. Because he comes from a highly regarded school, admins thought it would look prestigious to put him on several important committees. He either can't come because of family obligations or shows up late, does a half-ass job, and leaves early. As a person, he's as sweet as can be. As a colleague, he sucks.

    This will not change for the time being as we have a department chair whose prime directive is keeping everyone happy but some happier than others. No student complaints, a colleague happy with his job and the "work-life balance" it gives him, and enough schmucks to pick up the slack because we actually care about what happens to our students--see, everyone's happy!

  9. I'm with Bubba, who is the only one besides Strelnikov who is real on this page. Fritz is an envious little man with no sense. Hal probably rocks that school. Who needs to attend class when you can rock a bear claw and be home by the time Oprah comes on. Fucking Fritz, what a loser, sitting in his office all day like a drone.

    GO MAN BUBBA, call 'em all out, at least the ones who are real.

  10. We have a Hal, too. And my partner/spouse/significant other teaches at a diff. school & has a Hal in the dept., too. Students grumble, but not too seriously. Both of our Hals are just as easy with doling out an A for no reason other than not having graded fuck-all this semester as they are to sidle away from any responsibility. So our Hals are rarely complained about. My chair has made an effort to corral my Hal into at least showing up for class on time, but that's about it. Unfortunately, we have Hal AND fucktard students to deal with... I need a bearclaw..

  11. Oh well, my feeling is if you have good students you should not complain.

    My office mate is Hal. Except he is always here, napping. He brags about how he is never stressed out, because he has learned to manage his work load. He has been an English professor here at Inner City Community College since they opened their doors, in 1967, a year before I was born.

    He never assigns an essay longer than 2 pages; most are one page. He gives only grammar lessons in his English Composition classes. Gives them these little worksheets to do. Mutliple choice, and in his 'defense' his 'exams' are not multiple choice, but editing of speeches he feels will enhance their education (with the grammar purposely screwed up, of course).

    He's a very nice guy. You just have to turn your brain off when you talk to him. And while he won't say no if you ask him to do anything, it is better not to go there.

  12. Do you happen to know how the last person to get tenure in your department -got- that tenure? Was it someone who was in her office all the time? Was it someone who did a ton of committee work? In short, was it a Fritz who got tenure, or was it a Hal? If it was a Fritz, keep doing what you're doing. If it was a Hal...well, follow that advice about shutting your door and doing your stuff.

    I have an 'office,' but I work at home and am available to students via email. They don't show up at my office, I get annoyed, and then I get sick of my "hi there" colleagues (at Humpshack) and my "stand in the hall and talk about tits" colleagues (at Second String State). Home is quiet, dog-friendly, and free of potential dietary disasters like the bear claw.

  13. Yep, I commute to school, not by choice but because of the rest of my family's situation. When it's office hours, my door is open. Otherwise, not. I answer e-mail within 24-48 hours. I make appointments with students who can't make my office hours. I write a ton of recommendations. I do a lot of department- and campus-level committee work. I do a lot of service to the profession on a national level. And I publish a reasonable amount.

    And that, my friends, is the end. Anyone who thinks I am "not available enough" can go to hell. I am at an R1, though, and that would not have gone over at the SLAC where I taught before. But where I am now, hanging about one's office taking every chatter who comes by is the sign of not being a serious scholar.

  14. Ed Nather, in his essay, "Advice to the Young Astronomer," says this:

    Committee assignments: the theory here is that everybody should share in the burden of administration, taking time away from their research work in the process. If you are very good and conscientious about this stuff you will be given more and more of it, since you get things done, to the lasting benefit of the department administrators. On the other hand if you thoroughly neglect it, fail to call or attend any committee meetings, and generally do a lousy job, you will get fewer and fewer committee assignments, and you can get on with your research. You should not be too blatant, though. When pressed, have a meeting by email - just send each committee member a copy of the topic to be considered (obscurity here is a virtue) and ask them to respond. Make a single file of all the individual responses and send it back to all of them, and a copy to the department chairman. This should create enough dissention and warring messages that you can tell the chairman you are uncomfortable making a decision without a consensus, and that he had better do it. You won't be assigned to that committee again.

  15. P.S. When I was department chair, I had a blast. I drank all the brandy, and smoked all the cigars.

  16. The easiest way to remove stress from your life is to not give a flying f*ck about your job. Stop caring about whether or not you're doing good work, and stop striving to do a good job. Since you'll never have to ask any of your colleagues or any other staff for anything at all, everyone will like you a lot and that might be enough to stave off getting fired (or not hired, as it were).

    I can't do it - I'm too obsessive-compulsive, and having shoddy work with my name on it bothers me. But plenty of other people have managed to pull it off and they're happy as can be. Of course, they're more well-liked than I am, for the very same reason that professors who show movies are more well-liked than those who make their students think and work and learn. I don't even blame my colleagues for preferring those carefree types. Most people prefer those who smile and wave and always look cheerful as they gnaw on pastries, than someone who corners them in the ladies' room and demands to know where is that file they were supposed to send two weeks ago (and is always crunching loudly on baby carrots, since I haven't been thin enough to eat pastries since 1995).

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Turning the lights off stopped working for me when some of the students figured it out. The student newspaper even told everyone to keep knocking.

  19. I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like Hal has cracked the code and you haven't.
    At my (former) R1, the three deciding factors for tenure were research, research, and research.
    As long as you showed up for classes, didn't take money for grades, and were discreet about taking sex for grades, that was good enough for the teaching piece.
    If you're sitting there during office hours while nobody is showing up -- that's a hint that you are wasting time that could be spent doing something more productive, like feeding your horses. Or your gerbils.
    - FRP

  20. For God's sake close your door. I leave it open a crack during office hours; the rest of the time, I'm not here. If someone knocks, I don't answer.

    If your department has an 'open door' policy - when you're in, you must leave your office door open - then develop a "I'm working at home" policy.

    When your chair wants to put you on yet another committee, point out how many committees you're already on and say "maybe Hal could do it?"


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.