reason to look at the web page of a department for which I adjuncted and occasionally visiting-professored* in the late 1990s for the first time in a long time a few days ago, and noticed that, among other changes, my last department chair there is now vice-Provost. I also found myself recalling the most memorable conversation I had with that chair, when he told me, sometime in late Nov./Dec., that they would not, as he had assured me 4-6 months or so before would be the case, be able to offer me a second semester of full-time work that year, only 3 classes on a part-time basis. He wasn't a bad guy then, and he probably isn't a bad guy now, but somehow it strikes me that being able to deliver such news as if it were par for the course**, with little to no empathy for or recognition of the significant financial consequences for the recipient, is, sadly, not a bad qualification for becoming a provost these days.
*This, of course, is one of the reasons we refer to Visiting Professors as Accursed Visiting Professors around here. I'm not entirely sure of the history of the reference, but I think I've seen Frod, who uses it fairly regularly, credit Walt for its origin. Maybe someone else can fill in the details.
**It is, indeed, par for the course, but I wasn't quite experienced enough to realize that at the time. For any recent Ph.D.s/A.B.D.s reading here: what you can count on is what you have in writing, in a contract, with your own signature and the signature of someone higher up (probably higher up than the chair -- a Dean or Provost) physically present, and associated with a date earlier than or equal to the present date, at the bottom. Nothing else -- no oral promise, or projection; no advice from your advisor about "getting your foot in the door," nothing else, full stop -- counts. Even then, you'd better understand all the rules about classes "making," and the ability of/requirement for TT faculty to take over adjunct classes if their own classes don't "make," and so on. Your (prospective) colleagues can be good, kind, empathetic, honest people, and still be stuck enforcing the rules of a system they consider unjust. It's nice when they -- unlike the chair I mention above, who I still maintain was/is a pretty decent guy -- at least acknowledge that the system is unjust, but that doesn't change the rules, or the effects on you. Even if you trust the people, don't trust the system under which you're both/all operating.
And I just noticed it's Thursday, and we don't have a Thirsty, so
Q: What's the worst news you ever received from a chair, Dean, Provost, President, etc.? How did (s)he deliver it? Did the manner of delivery affect your respect for hir?
[or Q: can anyone enlighten us as to the the history of referring to Visiting Professors as Accursed Visiting Professors on RYS/CM? Are all Visiting Professors, by definition, Accursed?]