Monday, August 30, 2010

The Administrative Contagion

When I first learned that [useless boss] was taking over the job of overseeing us because the previous prof had decided to shack up with her millionaire boyfriend in a desert state and spend the rest of her time "jetsetting around the world," I thought it was pretty funny.

When we didn't get the syllabus until two days before school started, I was a little stressed but figured I could make the changes I wanted in plenty of time to get it in and get copies made.

When [useless boss] said that she had little notice that she was going to be switching which classes she was overseeing, from remedial to the capstone, and that she had spent almost all of the time she'd had getting the other person ready to take over her old job, I silently thought she might be a little bit of a snowflake herself. Helping your fellow prof is commendable, but you still have to get your own work done -- isn't this what we tell our students when they beg us for more time on assignments because they had sorority obligations or had to go on a mission in the middle of the semester?

When I learned the day before classes started that I couldn't make any changes whatsoever to the syllabus, that I was to tell my students that the entire thing might be changed, that I had to accept late papers and, worse, that I was expected to make exceptions to even that lax policy when there was "good reason," that I could not make tardies count against student grades, that [useless boss] thought all of the policies I had been teaching the intro class with were too harsh for this, the capstone course, and that she wanted to add more detail and "flesh out" the daily reading/outline that was also supposed to go out with the syllabus, I freaked out. After panicking for a few hours and desperately asking my colleagues what they were planning in their own courses, I felt I would have less prep time and could use this semester to work on my own writing (what I'm actually here for).

When she again told me that every [capstone course number] class should be exactly the same, I gently reminded her that the second years were used to much more autonomy from [less useless boss]. She proceeded to give me a sneer and say severely "Well, I'll have to talk to him about that." This is where I realized we were all going to be treated like incompetent imbeciles for the entire semester, even though all of us have taught before and some have extensive teaching experience.

When she said that we could legally change anything about the course up until a few weeks of the final and students couldn't do anything about it as long as we gave them some advanced warning, I thought she was an idiot.

When I read through the syllabus before class and saw all of the mistakes, typos, and obvious errors she left in, I shook my head. How could I expect my students to pay attention to their own papers and proofread them carefully when I gave them this?

When she agreed with newbie GTAs saying that they weren't comfortable with things that make the class work, like having the students workshop their essays and (especially) not giving them their last papers back in person, I quietly choked on my water and glanced at the other 2nd years, all equally surprised. Had she never taught before? The students need as much instruction as possible to help them write that paper, we need a reasonable amount of time to grade all 50 of them while we are doing our own end-of-semester work, and if we had them turn them in early, what the hell would we fill the rest of the class with? Not to mention the fact that only a handful of them come to pick them up the next semester shows how important it is they read our comments. As for the workshop, yes, some are very shy about having their work read, but as we do not have them read their paper aloud (as we did in intro) and we are to take all identifying marks off said paper before handing it to the rest of the class, it's just something that they should deal with as college students. To not do so means no one will learn from that paper, the author included.

When I looked at my email this weekend and that she had not only redone the reading assignment/daily outline to make it even more restrictive (basically making us all nothing more than her mouthpiece) but still leaving major issues in the text, that she wanted to see our grading before we gave it back to make sure it was "in line" with what she thought we should be grading like, and that she wanted to tell us about some "alternate plan" for workshopping that she wanted to "share" with us, that our workshop sign-up sheets were now useless, I was just pissed. Totally and absolutely pissed. And I realized that starting Tuesday I am going to figure out who I need to beg to teach another course, ANY other course, to get away from this woman.

With all of this, you would think the woman had never taught a course in her life. Yet this is not the case -- every semester she teaches some composition courses and [less useless boss] assures us that she's taught [capstone course] before. When introducing her to the newbies, he said she was the Composition Queen and the [capstone course number] Guru. Doesn't seem like it on my end, that's for sure.

So what the hell happened? Why is it that she doesn't know or can't remember how a college classroom works? Is there some sort of administrative contagion that instructors get when they're put in admin positions (or *gasp* are even around admins too often)? Should we be wearing masks so as not to catch the dreaded stupid bug?


  1. Dear fucking God, May, you have a terrible job. You should tell us CM-ers where so we can rescue you.

  2. Wouldn't it be great if the boss of Useless Boss read this and realized what was going on? Maybe you could anonymously send the double-boss a link to this page? And the triple-boss and quadruple-boss (the provost?).

    Cuz it sounds like you're in hell. I know, cuz I'm there, too, and I wish the triple-boss would fucking straighten things out.

    Please, Jesus, let Useless Boss get hit by a car tomorrow morning. A little temporary amnesia would be nice. Nothing permanent.

  3. [useless boss] is trying to show off her power and administrative acumen in the clumsiest way possible with her total failure a probability. [useless boss] needs to be told she is throwing a spanner into the works - and soon - before the damage takes effect.

  4. It would be amazing if someone in power found this, even though I'd probably be up shit creek for writing it. I would love to go to one of the higher ups, maybe [less useless boss] or the department chair, but as a GTA I have to be careful of whose toes I step on, especially since it's a tiny department. While [useless boss] is indeed useless and has proved herself completely incompetent (much less in the process of running every single GTA who can find another position out of that section), she seems to be well-liked (or at least tolerated) in regards to those faculty members I can read. Those who I can't... These people are who I can get recommendations from after all, whether they're to another degree or to a job somewhere. Regardless, if I want to get out of this town and stay out of adjuncting, I can't piss people off, especially those I teach under.

    So the best I can do is try to salvage my own classes from the crap she's trying to pull so that they learn SOMETHING and maybe won't kill me on evals. That and try to survive the semester -- heavy course load and extracurriculars included. And if I can't beg/borrow/steal my way out of teaching [capstone] next semester, I'll be stuck with her all year.

  5. Sadly, such cluelessness is not patentable by the academy. In the really really big organization where I toil during the day, I'm fortunate to be part of small team of wonderfully skilled practitioners of our craft. One layer above us, we are stifled regularly be a single --and singularly- ignorant bureaucrat. This single point of failure doesn't know even the basics of our business, doesn't provide us the simple service we need (telling us "how many, when and where"). Did I mention atrocious communication skills ? Or that all of these antics are tolerated by our common boss?

    This particular bureaucrat is textbook proof that hrevenge is a dish best served cold. We already know that offering education about or needs hasn't worked...we're reduced to praying for a replacement.

  6. "previous prof had decided to shack up with her millionaire boyfriend in a desert state"

    How do I get this gig? Are there any qualifications or skillz I need?

  7. Looking like a typical (perhaps slightly frumpy) prof, hating your job, and being very, very lucky.


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