Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Dean Solves It For You

by Dean Sprocket, M.Ed.L.

Today's "problem" comes to us from a reader in Quakerberg. Some of the details of his situation seem vaguely familiar, which suggests that it's a common enough complaint that my response would be of broad applicability to you, my readers. Let's see what we can solve today.

Dear Dean Sprocket,

My colleagues and I are quite stressed. Our enrolment has doubled over the last decade, but faculty has not increased; in fact, we're down one and about to restart a search (more on that later). Our salaries have gone up by only the cost-of-living; some years, we didn't even get that because of claims of financial exigency. Because we have so many more students, our office hours have had to increase, and our time spent in committees devoted to student academic and disciplinary matters has actually more than doubled, therefore our research output has greatly suffered. Which brings us back to the search: the last one failed when all the qualified candidates took positions for more pay at other institutions, or simply stopped responding to our emails and calls (one of them at least said "you need more help than I can give" before hanging up). So my first question is, do you have any ideas as to how we might attract and retain a candidate who has actually trained in our field? And the second question is, do you have any tips as to how we might convince our administration to hire two new faculty instead of just one?

- Hogee Pep.

Dear Doctor Pep,

Thank you for your questions. My faculty say they have the same problems at my institution, and I can certainly sympathize. So I begin with some good news! You won't have to do that search till at least the next faculty retirement, death, or other exodus. No doubt both you and your colleagues are quite relieved for that to be off your plates for a while. But when that search does commence, I suggest you broaden your criteria to include candidates trained in other fields. Specialization is highly over-rated, as someone who understands research enough to get a Ph.D. in one field can easily do research in any field. Furthermore, as for the teaching aspect, the new classroom paradigm is for instructors to facilitate students in teaching each other and themselves, i.e. to be the guide on the side and not the sage on the stage. So again, faculty don't require expertise in any particular subject.

Now, I must be stern with you: your attitude is not helping you. You need to step outside your situation to see it from another perspective, and look at other people's problems instead of just your own to understand that things are tougher elsewhere, so you've got nothing to complain about. You have no idea how difficult it is to attain higher productivity from a fixed number of faculty in the face of increasing enrolment. Our scheduling burden was multiplied by 200%, and that's a big number! I had to create two new chief officer-level positions to help arrange all the pieces on the board.

But the key to feeling less stressed on the job is delegation. Just as I delegated hiring their five admins and assistants each to the new CO's themselves, you can delegate your duties. Delegate your committee work to the newest faculty; it's a great way for them to become connected to the university and learn "how the sausage is made". Research and scholarly activity -- that's like looking stuff up and rewriting it, right? That can be delegated to any of the several office assistants you no doubt have in the suite just outside your office door. If you're in a STEM field that requires lab work, just get some work-study students to do the experiments, and to write up what they did and what they observed. You might have to edit all this writing you'll get from these others, but you can acknowledge them in a footnote. Also, it's always good to get a post-doc or two to run things for you -- just put up an ad and you'll get all kinds of applications, but make sure they have their own grant support.

See how easy that is? It's surprising that you didn't think of it, but then again, you're not The Dean, and solving your problems is why they give me the big bucks.

[+] Thank you, moderators, for the graphic.


  1. Am I sending emails from the future?

    Help me OPH Kenobi. You're our only hope...

  2. Fuck Cal; it's always Cal.

    1. You're welcome, you ungrateful fucking bastard. :)

  3. I was going to say that you also teach at dear old U.W-C*, but the final paragraph was clearly not inserted on the orders of the Dean of Beatings Continuation, whose role it is to blame faculty for the problems outlined in the letter.

    Anyway, POW!

  4. That was outstanding. You've hit upon every single problem that my school is dealing with, and you've decribed many of the ways we are dealing with them.

  5. This does, indeed, sound familiar (well, except that we haven't had COLAs in some time, and I'm the sort of faculty that sees my workload increase mostly when someone decides that they can shove a few more students into each section without any problem, forgetting that, for those of us teaching 4/4, the effect is multiplied by 4.)

    Anyway, POW, indeed! I suspect this pretty accurately captures the present state of things in most American universities (and a good many colleges/community colleges as well).

  6. This is brilliant! So glad I checked the older posts. I'm shaking my head in wondet at the deliciousness.

  7. Wondet is to wonder as lurve is to love.

  8. @Johnathan: You'll have to hold out hope enough for both of us. I have none.

    @Cal: I can't decide whether the graphic depicts a sparkling stone of hardness sufficient to cut glass, or an arrowhead glistening with blood. Anywhere on the spectrum between and including those extrema works for me.

    @EC1: Maybe we do work at the same place. Dean Sprocket says there's no problem, blames the faculty for believing there is, and says any "solution" is obvious but the faculty are apparently too stupid to think of it. It's a beating that never stops, delivered as a sandwich comprising a slice of shit between two slices of shit.

    @Ben: Your school is "fixing" these problems the same way? I am terribly sorry.

    @Cassandra: A duck told me that the dean edited out part of Hogee's letter that he didn't understand, specifically the line that faculty salaries are two standard deviations below the mean of institutions in regions with lower housing costs. Does he think that faculty have no friends at other places?

    @All: Thank you for your compliments.


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