Saturday, October 22, 2011

The President's Mail

I've been, uh, busy. There are some large budget cuts looming, and I seem to spend all of my time in meetings trying to decide who I am not going to hire for the next term and whether striking the free copier card to all of the teachers will save enough money to afford whiteboard pens. This is a serious budget cut, but I have to try and keep smiling on the outside and get my proffies to NOT PANIC.

I'm panicking.

I just told Dr. Silverback that I will not fund his grad student who has a paper "accepted" to the International Conference on Everything Imaginable to be held in China next year. I have to tell the departments that just moved into a new building that we don't have any more money to purchase chairs for the hallway, or notice boards. They should be thankful that I got a coffee machine installed.

Oh, and I'm spending time learning about quality management (cough cough) and hiring a quality manager as we have funding for that, strangely enough.

ANYWAY. I permitted myself to attend a conference as the school I first worked as as a professor. It was soooooo cool, seeing old colleagues (a bit greyer and thicker around the middle, but still the same fun people). And a good friend is now president of this place. She opened the conference and then left, this is not her field of expertise.

As I was leaving the conference I saw that there was still light in the president's office. And the door to the building was still open, although it was dark out, so I pushed inside. She was happy to see me, her desk full of things needing Urgent Attention. She was just ploughing through her mail. I asked if it was fun. Fun?

Just today, she said, I have:
  • Prof. StillSexy who, although married with kids, wants to have benefits for his love child. The mother of the love child is currently on maternity leave from the admissions office, but benefits for proffies are better. Oh, and please only send correspondence about this to my college address. My wife doesn't know about the love child.
  • An anonymous letter threatening to go to the press about professors taking junket trips to warmer climates although Budget Cuts are Looming. It's an entire department, going away together for a 3 day weekend. They are paying for it themselves, she's only paying for the first day when they are doing planning and sorting out accreditation woes and such.
  • And the winner is: Prof. Complainer, who wrote that the urinals in building X are in such bad condition that he is unable to, uh, properly use them because the disgusting smell and looks of the facilities hampers him. He includes pictures he has taken with his mobile phone. Five of them. Luckily none of the non-performing member.
I noted that she should be glad that we haven't gotten digital smelling to work yet and made her get her coat and head home. And I decided that I am *not* going to continue, either as dean or go on to presidential posts, when my term of office is up. I want to get back to basket weaving.


  1. I want to get back to basket weaving.

    When you get back to weaving baskets, you'll find that the new dean doesn't want to pay for any more hamster fur or weaving conferences. And neither does the president. And the grants are smaller and harder to get. So then you'll return to being dean so that you can have a little control over things. And then proffies will hate you even more than before. It's a vicious cycle. Good post, Suzy. I wonder how the story will end.

  2. Bubba describes the dilemma very nicely: if none of the good people want to be Deans or Presidents (or Provosts, or any of those other essential posts), then we'll only get bad Deans, Presidents, etc. But I certainly can't blame any one decent, caring administrator for wanting to run for the hills (or at least back to the classroom, lab, and/or library), all the more so because I have no intention of trying my hand at administration myself (well, in the highly unlikely eventuality that I actually ended up a tenured professor somewhere, I'd be willing to take my turn as chair of a reasonably functional department, but that's about it, and reasonably functional departments are, I realize, few and far between, though I'm lucky enough to work for one).

  3. No almost-half-million salary (what the Dean earns where I work) would be enough to get me to Dean. I've noticed that faculty are especially vicious toward female Deans, who cannot win. Either they are dismissed as milquetoast or they are hated as raging bitches. No, thanks, but thanks, Suzy, for taking it on. Someone's got to do it.

  4. What they said. And thanks for all your great posts, Suzy. You sound like a very wise, fun, and humane dean. It will be interesting to hear your perspective when you're back in our trenches.

    A beloved member of our department became a Dean around the time I was hired, a VP about 10 years later, and a stroke victim shortly after that. Her on-campus "Celebration of Life" was the most depressing memorial service I've ever attended. One after another, administrators got up to say how Dean Dottie was "always up for a challenge" and "never said no" when asked to take on another task or attend a conference on behalf of the college. But the Powerpoint montage behind the speakers misspelled her name throughout the event.

    That was the day I decided (like F&T) that nothing would be enough to entice me into management.


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