Thursday, February 19, 2015

Big Thirsty: Are we really a family?

My dean (who is on the way to becoming Provost at another university, thank Doug almighty) and now our new university president have both repeatedly stated, "We are family." This makes me queasy, since past employers who have said this then proceeded to all manner of abuse. Whenever our dean, who's been a walking disaster (name the abuse, and it's happened) says, "We are family," I want to yell back, "Oh no, we're NOT! In MY family, we treat each other with RESPECT!"

Am I just being overly touchy? Or have any of you miserable bastards (hi, Archie!) had similar experience? Isn't it pathological (in a manner not unlike Katie) to think of colleagues as family?

26 comments:

  1. I shudder to think what sort of family would constitute an actual equivalent to a contemporary university.

    Something like the Saudi Royal Family, perhaps: piles of princelings, obscure but vicious politics, vast resources wasted on luxuries for the few and sops to the commoners; an oppressive regime that nonetheless governs by making its subjects feel theologically and ethnically superior to outsiders, to their own families (women) as well as the peons (immigrant laborers, mostly) who do the real work.

    I don't think that's what they meant, but if you can come up with a better analogy, go for it.

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  2. I'm sorry this post has caused so much trouble for the RGM, but it's not obvious that the previous post was a Big Thirsty. It doesn't even contain a grammatically complete sentence, or even a question mark, after all. Have you been reading too much student writing?

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    1. I knew this day was coming. Famous and proud humanities hater gets his own fucking page. I'm quitting this bitch. Back to the meat space for me. I shan't be back until 2016 and maybe not even then! Harumph.

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    2. I'm sorry, Kimmie, but I most assuredly do not hate the humanities. It may surprise you, but in general I don't even hate humanities proffies.

      I can't say I'm fond of what some academics to do the humanities, however. I'm also not crazy about anyone who tries to impose teaching techniques on me that are inappropriate for what I teach, particularly not ones who won't take, "No, thank you," for an answer.

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    3. Yeah well, you granted me the posting privileges, RGM.

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  3. For a place that prides itself for bad graphics, today is a masterpiece.

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    1. Hey, the last time anyone made a serious attempt to teach me to draw was when I was in 8th grade. I learned everything I know about drawing on the street, just like I learned all my computer programming.

      Like all self-taught artists, I live in dread of the day a knowledgeable art critic says, "He's obviously self-taught, because his work is dreck." But there was an inked version of the self-portrait, which the RGM may use.

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  4. I would marry this page if I could.

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  5. No wonder Frod's post messed up the page. We anticipated that he would delete the post, then repost it, then delete again, ...

    Jonathan Dresner's description of the university family sounds about right, though I'd say that in terms of dysfunctionality, any family from Jerry Springer would be a role model for universities.

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    1. Nah, I'm just an "idea" guy. Cal put it into practice, beautifully.

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    2. Cal, if it means that I get to drink booze at work like they do in Mad Men, then you can call me whatever you want.

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  6. Oh, was there a question asked? I missed the other Big Thirsty so I'll answer this one.

    Adminiflakes love the family line because they think it humanizes them. It doesn't. It's just manipulative.

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  7. I, too, seem to have missed something (though I can guess, to some extent).

    Jonathan Dresner came up with a pretty good present-day analogy. I'll mention the historical one: slave owners in the U.S. insisted that their slaves were treated like, and in fact were, "members of the family." Of course, they also had a degree of legal control over members of their nuclear family -- children and, especially, wives -- that we would consider horrifying today.

    There are families and there are families, but I'm relieved not to have heard this sentence uttered at work, and if I did, I would be on high alert for incoming attempts at exploitation.

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  8. I think the thing to call back is "Have you stopped beating your kids yet?"

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    1. Good idea (at least for those with tenure, or in a crowd large enough to provide anonymity).

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  9. One reason I admire our current dean is that when he was first hired, he told us all in a meeting, "we're not a family." Then we all had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, and several people said, "we are like family," despite what he just said. I don't want another family. I agree that it's manipulative. If your "family" needs you to work on a weekend or take a pay cut or join some useless committee, you have to do it, because families love each other, right? But I already have a bunch of people for whom I have to help move furniture, meet at the airport, or offer my couch if they need it. Why would I want the same obligations to my coworkers, with none of the reciprocal benefits? We just work together, we don't have to love each other, all we have to do is get along. So I hate the "we are family" crap. I don't work for a Japanese car company.

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  10. I'd prefer not to think of my colleagues as a family; as everybody knows, one is more likely to be murdered by an acquaintance rather than a stranger.

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  11. Well, I have never heard my Provost's or Chancellor's voices; I vaguely remember the dean came to a departmental meeting early on, so I must have heard his voice, though I have no idea what he said. I certainly don't read any of the "newsletters" their offices send to my spam mailbox. So I have no idea if they're in the habit of referring to us as a `family' or not. Nobody on the faculty (or the staff) would be caught dead saying such things.

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  12. If my colleagues were as bad as my family, I wouldn't endure the snowflakiness. I would run from the hills screaming.

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  13. You don't pick your relatives. In American culture, you typically pick your spouse, and therefore theoretically your kids as well. But they are their own people, and if you think you can helicopter them into perfection, you are more deluded than I am.

    So let's just concede that you don't really pick your family. And you don't pick your colleagues, either, and they know this. They know that you can't escape them save by long and weary dances. They know that they can push the button and/or twist the knife, all the while feigning surprise at how much you twitch as their taser injects kilovolts deep into your spleen.

    When the powers-that-be at my joint so much as insinuate that we are family, I get a serious forboding that they are about to fuck us and expect us to thank them for it.

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