Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heywood From Henderson Stops By With Some Colleague Misery.

Dr. Useless,
stopping by for a chat.
Hey, there, cats and kittens, Heywood from Henderson here with some colleague misery! You know we have 'em. Here's mine.

Next door to my office is the office of Dr. Useless. Dr. Useless is of a type we all know and love - on campus just long enough to teach her classes and only very occasionally meets with students she likes (these are young men, and she shuts the door for these conversations, or young women, with whom she discusses the young men). She gets involved in committee work only if it's easy, quick, and high-profile, and is golden teflon with the admins but dreck with the colleagues.

Dr. Useless has no inside voice, so all conversations with students are held at jet engine levels. I've taken to either sitting in my office with industrial earplugs, or closing the door with a sign outside during my office hours saying "I'm in, just knock."

Dr. Useless frequently is late to her few classes, and sometimes, her students have to come to her office and remind her that they are waiting in their classroom. FOR HER. She giggles when this happens.

Her exams are open-book, open-note, multiple choice, and group work is allowed. She leaves the classroom for these, so that she can go wander up and down the halls, looking for colleagues to annoy with multi-hour (literally) rambling monologues.

This week, though, Dr. Useless hit a high note of wtf with us, her hapless fellow faculty. See, we're required to have CMS pages for all classes, and are required to at least post a syllabus and keep the gradebook updated. This requirement has been in place for a couple of years now. We request blank pages/shells from our Distance Learning department at the end of every semester for the following semester. We get multiple email reminders about these requests and the requirements.

In addition, this semester we are moving to an early alert retention tool that interacts with the gradebook on our shell. It's relatively easy to use, if you keep the gradebook minimally updated. We are grumbling because of the obvious problems with students having constant access to grades without context, but it's a requirement and we're getting training through the grumbling.

Three times this week, Dr. Useless has had literally tantrumy meltdowns, two in the Distance Learning office and one in the retention tool training. See, she forgot to request her course shells in the spring and throughout the summer. So, of course that's Distance Learning's fault, and she spent a good chunk of time in their office screaming at them for their incompetence at not fulfilling a request she never made. The retention tool training tantrum was a barrage of "this is unnecessary, it's too much technology, I don't think we should have to learn this, students won't like all of this additional information," etc.

Why is this misery as opposed to "meh?"

Dr. Useless' favorite course to teach, her "boutique" course that she insists on teaching every semester?

A course that covers the benefit, importance and impact of technology on society.

I am already out of whiskey, and the semester just started.


  1. Dr. Useless does, indeed, sound useless, and intensely annoying to boot. And of course she teaches the course on technology; it fits her self-image of cool and up-to-date (and easy/fun), right?

    But if everybody has to have a CMS page, why oh why doesn't the relevant office just create one for each of the courses listed in the schedule/registration software? That's what happens on our campus. We can then request modifications (e.g. one site for two sections), but the basic shells are there without any effort on our parts, and invisible to the students until we activate them. That seems like a sensible, and efficient, system (one of those times when I realize my institution does a lot of things right).

  2. My school *now* does the same as Cassandra's-- until last year though one had to remember to ask them to create the shell, ugh.

  3. I can totally commiserate! And thank you for posting this. We, too, like Cassandra's situation, get our pages created automatically, and we request adjustments. Our "Dr." Useless (no PhD) is equally useless and incompetent by always having a personal drama that supersedes any need to work. Sadly, our Resident Useless was hired before anyone else in the department, and has not always been as useless, but has gradually declined in usefulness in the past 10 years.


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