Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back home

The drama continued in the new year. HR showed up and offered me a student assistant for three months to "tide me over" until a new administrative assistant could be hired. How nice. And all the duties will be distributed over every one else's desks. And who coordinates this all? Well, the dean, of course!

I was in a funk, thought long and hard about quitting, decided that I had had it and would be announcing that I would quit as soon as a replacement could be found. I got the old shopping cart out of the post room and carted 2/3 of my stuff back to the old office. It was under a blanket of dust - no one had cleaned in four years, it seems. But my desk and chair and stuff were still there.

Monday morning I appeared, ready to prepare one last faculty meeting, planning to announce my stepping down after that meeting. But coming from the weekly staff meeting I tripped over the chancellor himself standing in front of my office. WTF? I can't get him to return emails or give me the time of day, what is he doing here on the other campus? The legal beagle rounds the corner and HR comes springing down the hall - oh oh.

I am cornered. I let them into my office and inquire as to their business, seeing no appointment on my list for the day. They hem and haw, and then say that I have been accused anonymously ( but "in writing") of doing something illegal. Could they please look at all of my papers? I throw each and every file they think they need on the table. They collect. They make a list. I even give them bags to cart the stuff away. And when they leave, I resign, effective immediately. A student helps me cart my plants and my computer out of the room. Jack Daniels helps me sleep that night.

The next day I get an email in the evening - they have looked at my stuff and it appears that I didn't do anything illegal after all. I actually kept very good records. And then Wednesday (I am not making this up) HR sends around a New Year's greeting about how important it is that we treat everyone with respect and praise what they are doing.

WTF? My fellow Hamster Fur Weaving colleagues are happy to have me back. We have a hug-a-thon. We chew the fat. We drink endless cups of green tea. Tonight a colleague puts it in a nutshell: I do not want to work for a school that treats its employees like ours does. I re-subscribed to the email jobs list. And will polish that CV this weekend.

The students were in an outrage, must have been 200 of them stormed the faculty meeting. They demanded answers - why? One of them came up with something the chancellor denied, but it started to make sense to me. "Did this have anything to do with the financial irregularities that we had dug up early in 2011?" "No," the chancellor said, who was attending the meeting with HR. I started thinking: right. I have been pointing out financial irregularities pretty much all year and getting more and more pissed each time my statements are ignored. I must have stepped on some toes.

But I can't prove they were getting me out because of that. I feel for the students - I hope they get really, really angry and start putting thumbscrews on a few persons. But no, darlings, I'm not available to come back. I'm glad to hear that you liked me after all and thought I was doing a great job. I love all these emails.

Love having a place to vent, hugs and drinks for all - Just Plain Suzy.


  1. I am so glad you saved yourself, Suzy.

  2. Send that CV to a school southeast of where you are now, and find a reason to include the word "tomato" in it somewhere.

  3. Proffie Suzy, you are a hero in a world full of cowards. I'd buy you a few rounds if I knew you in real life. you go Girl!

  4. The response of your colleagues and students says many good things about you Suzy.

  5. What Beaker Ben said.
    Enjoy the drinks, hugs, and mails.

  6. I want to hold you in my arms and kiss you, Suzy. (That's easy, since I imagine you look like Elizabeth Warren.)

    One thing's troubling me, though. Might the higher-ups now do something really obnoxious, such as break up your college? Without a dean to defend it, I hope it has a named sponsor.

  7. It sounds like you've dealt with this very well. I can imagine the stress destroying me, but then you weren't out of a job so much as you were out of a tough spot. Here's to hoping that we all have this kind of constitution when our own dicking-over comes, and that we have a loving department to return to as well!

  8. You are one brave Suzy! Thanks for standing up for yourself.

  9. Suzy. Wow. Wow. You're an inspiration. I think I'm going to watch Norma Rae to keep this mood going.

  10. Oooh, thanks for the hugs! @Froderick, I managed to at least win that one, although actually, we want to be broken up, we are just squabbling about how. We are far too large to be governed. I spoke with some people before the faculty meeting and we had a Plan B, just in case the official Plan A didn't work, which it didn't. A good colleague, also much hated by the higher-ups, jumped in after lots of deliberation and got himself elected right away. The higher-ups were sooooo disappointed that they didn't get to appoint someone, which they can so if we can't agree, according to our rules.

    Bubba, that's a fantastic code! Unfortunately, I have family issues, so moving is not okay, only driving a bit further. But I will include that word in all future applications. You never know.

    Looove the pic!

  11. Go ex-Dean Suzy! Delighted you've still got a supportive department to come back to.

    I would advise retaining a good labour lawyer, though, because it sounds like there's an agenda here that you haven't been informed of. First they canned your A.A., then they come after you with something trumped-up. I think there's a cover-up going on here, or something, and they may not feel safe until they've driven you out entirely. Something stinks to high heaven about this whole story, and since you don't know what it is, best you be armed. Or armoured.

  12. What Merely Academic said. But belated congratulations from here, anyhow, and virtual alcohol is coming your way.

  13. Congratulations, Suzy! I'm glad you're home, and so well welcomed (and sent off).

    I'm afraid I, too, was thinking you still might need a lawyer down the pike (and wondering if you kept copies of those files, but you do have the email confirming they were okay. In a similar situation, I hope I'd think to insist on a stop by the copier or scanner, and signed affidavits all 'round as to the identical nature of the resulting files, before I let them go. I probably wouldn't. And maybe I'm over-cautious, and I suppose that could make *you* look guilty. But yes, something may be going on, and if you don't think your assistant was involved, then there's reason to think scapegoats/fall guys are already being selected, and you've pretty publicly chosen sides).

    Also, not to in any way detract from your courage, but it strikes me that this story says something about the value of an administration that rises from the tenured faculty, and can return to it, and of a tenured/tenure-track faculty that does service (and elects its own administrators). Both you and the colleague who has succeeded you have a safety net, not to mention a base of relationships with other tenured/TT colleagues built through that dreaded but necessary activity: service. And, as you return to a heavier teaching load, your students get someone who is genuinely interested in her subject and good at teaching an actual subject (not, say, "higher education," in which one can now get a degree), not just marking time while sending out c.v.s for the next administrative post. I hope this story will not read, in twenty or even ten years, like a quaint remembrance of a much-lamented past (sort of like the woman I heard on NPR yesterday, talking about how when she was young working in a factory meant actually working up a sweat, and seeing an end product, whereas now she just pushes a button -- and, of course, gets paid less for doing it).

    Finally, should I ever be in a hiring position (unlikely, but you never know), and spot a tomato on a c.v., I will feel most favorably toward it. Or maybe they'll pop up on everyone's c.v.s now. Speaking of which, were any carrots spotted at the MLA?

  14. @Cassandra, you are quite right - having that safety net is a big plus! That let me be able to take the decision to step down without threatening my mortgage or food on the table.

    I did decide to contact a lawyer today. He first shook his head - asked where the president was in all this ruckus. Did not understand why did didn't move a finger. One wavers between gross incompetence or malice as possible reasons. And he pointed out two things they did which were illegal, told me to ignore the colleagues sending nastygrams (seems to be good advice, as the letters from friendly colleagues keep pouring in). And he gave me some bright ideas of things to do that are not illegal but will make the administration think I am preparing to sue them. Keep them on their toes!

    Bought a bottle of real champagne for the weekend. A celebration of my return to teaching!

  15. @Suzy: thanks for confirming that feeling. It did occur to me, after I wrote my comment, that salary can still serve as a pretty big carrot, and stick, especially over time. Still, as you write, tenure does provide some basic, even if short-term, security for faculty members who decide to stand up for what they believe.

    I'm glad the lawyer was encouraging/comforting. And I love the idea of making them think you *might* sue. At the very least, it comes under the "the best defense is a good offense" heading.

    Enjoy the champagne!


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