Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Teacher, advise thyself

A colleague wanted to speak with me in private. “I’m looking for a sage and I thought of you,” he said, and I wanted to point out that sage isn’t really my style—I’m more a basil or rosemary kind of girl. But he wanted sage advice so I put on my Senior Faculty hat and tried to give him some. I didn’t have any clear solutions, but I think I helped him formulate the question and determine where it should be directed. Just doing my part to keep the campus machine running smoothly—even if there’s no measurable reward.

Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to just phone it in. Let’s face it: there are no more promotions available, and in the absence of merit pay, I don’t have much external motivation for writing and publishing and designing new classes and serving the campus in a hundred little ways and a few big ones. Why not just lean back and coast? 

I find this especially tempting this week as I’m struggling to finish the syllabus for a brand-new service course I’ve never taught before and may never teach again while also working on a conference paper and designing a presentation for a campus workshop—not to mention spending an entire day at a planning meeting. In July! Without compensation! What kind of fool am I?

I’ll tell you what kind of fool I am: I’m the kind who can be sweet-talked into volunteering for way too many new initiatives and programs and who then runs out of time to tackle more interesting challenges. And frankly, this has to stop. Which is why I’ll be asking Faculty Council this fall to look into the amount of time faculty are being asked to contribute to campus activities during summer, when we are not under contract and are therefore working without compensation. Support for summer research has declined while demands on faculty time in the summer have increased, which puts the squeeze on those of us who are trying to pursue a rigorous research agenda.

It’s too late for this year, of course. This summer is just shot, and my work isn’t even half done. But it’s time to put on my Senior Faculty hat and give myself some sage advice: from now on, just say no to uncompensated summer labor.    

No comments: