Friday, September 19, 2008

What's That Road to Hell Paved with Again?

[Extract of phone conversation with FB last night]

Crazy: So it was revealed today that my chair is calling together a committee to revamp the curriculum for the major.
FB: ...
Crazy: So here's the part where you're supposed to tell me not to volunteer for this committee.
FB: Of course you shouldn't volunteer! Are you crazy! Without tenure! Extra work! [bluster bluster bluster]
Crazy: I knew that's what you'd say. And you're right....
FB: Of course I'm right!
Crazy: But I really want to have a say in how the thing is revamped.... but I guess whoever's on the committee will bring whatever they come up with and we'll have to vote on it as a department anyway....
FB: EXACTLY. You DO NOT need to be on this committee! You know I'm right!
Crazy: You just keep telling me that.

[As I'm putting the final touches on the Binder this afternoon, less than 24 hours after that conversation, the chair sends an email asking for volunteers.]

Crazy writes: I'd be happy to serve, if you need me :)

[When Crazy walks into the department office to turn in her Binder.]

Chair: Oh! Look at that! Are you finished? [pause] I need to talk to you!
Crazy: Uhhhh....
[Crazy walks into Chair's office]
Chair: So when is your book coming out?
Crazy (slightly confused): Ummm... next month....
Chair: That's so exciting! You must be thrilled!
Crazy: Well, yeah... You needed to talk to me?
Chair: Now, it's horrible, when you're a person who does so much and does it all so well, because it means that more just gets asked of you, when other people who don't do anything never get asked because they don't do a good job....
[Crazy sees where this is going, she thinks]
Chair: And I don't know if you were even interested in being on the ad hoc committee about the curriculum.... but... [spit it out! thinks Crazy] I wanted to ask if you would chair it.
[Let's just pause for a moment and note that I really wanted to chair this committee if I was going to be on it, but that's crazy talk so I only ever admitted that to myself silently and never thought to actually say it out loud to anybody.]
Crazy: Chair, have you checked your email since you got back to the office? I already volunteered to be on the committee, and so of course I'd be happy to chair it!

[Why did Crazy want to chair it so badly? Because she wants to control the meeting schedule so that it's convenient for her. And because she wants to make sure the meetings aren't lengthy and rambling affairs where things aren't accomplished. And because she wants to decide the curriculum for the major, because it's part of her whole "world domination" scheme - one has to start small when one is aiming for "world domination."]

And rather than make a nice and healthy meal for myself, I've been eating Cool Ranch Doritos (a last hurrah before the healthy eating goes into effect tomorrow) with dip (in for a penny in for a pound - pun intended) and writing my syllabus for my new course next semester.

I, my friends, am an ass.


~profgrrrrl~ said...

I don't think it's so bad for you to volunteer for the committee. Yes, it's more work -- but if it's an area in which you're interested and feel you can make a good contribution, why not? I don't think you should volunteer for everything, but if you care about this area and want some control, it's a fine thing to do. Voting on it isn't the same as contributing to the core ideas.

But I'm one of those nutty people who does a lot of service and likes to be involved, so take my 0.02 for whatever it is worth, which may be negative $ in this market :)

Lesboprof said...

Girl, I feel your pain! I am SO that person. Seriously.

I actually think that if you were gonna get on the committee, and chair it, right after you turn in your binder is a good time. Hell, it will help keep your mind off the tenure review process.

Good luck. And tell FB that he probably ought to get used to it. After 10 years with me in academe on almost every freakin committee, the gf certainly has. Actually, when I told her that I was going to turn down the next committee offered to me to serve on, she said, "You can do that????"

Maggie said...

This is how it starts, Crazy. This is HOW IT STARTS. I predict in 18 months, you will be having exactly the same dilemmas I am having right now. You heard it here first :)

(But congratulations, too.)

undine said...

"World domination scheme" made me laugh. That is exactly the secret reason why any academic wants to chair a committee, ever: because we know we can do it better!

Bridgett said...

I had the same experience in my tenure review year. It was like everyone put the touch on me for service because they were either trying to test me a bit or they feared that this would be the last time they had any leverage to compel me to serve.

Eh, whatever. I do a lot of service anyhow and I enjoy it.

Bardiac said...

I think it's a great idea to be on the committee/chair it. Curriculum thinking has far-reaching effects on your majors, and thus on your job as faculty. If you as a department can do a good job with it, you'll have a curriculum that really works, and that will be great for your majors, and great for you.

My department did painfully difficult curriculum revision about 7 years ago now. We made our major more rigorous, and changed the timing of a couple courses (requiring them early rather than letting students get by without taking them til the end). The upshot is that I know in my upper division classes, pretty much every student has had theory. The classes just work so much better when students start on that slightly higher level of experience. It's way more rewarding to teach a class like that than our old way, trying to balance the needs of first years and graduating seniors.

Good luck with your work!

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks for the comments, everybody :) Actually, I'm really happy I've agreed to do this, and it's exactly the sort of service that I enjoy most and that I think I excel at the most. I've also decided in the past 24 hours that I'm going to drop one of my other service commitments for the year in order to be kind to myself for taking this on, and that I'm going to do so without any guilt whatsoever. I'm also happy that I'm doing this because it gives me the perfect excuse NOT to be involved in a time-intensive way in the discussion of revamping gen. ed. that the administration has initiated, which does promise to be all kinds of frustrating and stupid.

So, all in all, I'm pretty happy with this turn of events. I am a fool, though, because I did know I'd say do this committee all along, so I wonder why I pretended that I wanted to be talked out of it :)

helenesch said...

I've noticed that since getting tenure (approx 2 years ago now) I'm doing more service, and I'm asked to do more, but I have much greater freedom to *decide* which obligations I take on. If something is important and interesting to me, I can/do say 'yes', and then it's okay to say no to some of the other requests (saying 'no' pretenure was a lot harder!) There are a number of service things I like doing, and I find my job more stimulating when I'm playing an active role.

What's annoying is being asked to do something I really don't want to do and being told by the chair that I really should say 'yes' since I'm the only one who can/will do a good job. The reason for his thinking this is that the last two faculty didn't seem to devote any time/energy to doing it, and thus he doesn't want either of them to do it again. I said 'no' and found it irritating that my reward for doing a good job (at something I disliked) was pressure to continue in this role!

And I can *totally* relate to you on the meeting scheduling issue. As chair of another committee this year, I could have the secretary coordinate our schedules and devise a meeting time, but then, what would be the point of my being chair! I want that kind of control, since meetings scheduled for a day when I don't otherwise need to be on campus each week really suck...

Belle said...

Yay Crazy! And right now is sooo the time to do this. First, it shows the dept's commitment to YOU; really, do you think that they'd ask you to do this if they thouht there was the slightest chance of a no on tenure? Of course not. And let's face it; there are things (like this) that we *do* do better than others. Like making meetings work properly, keeping others on their toes, etc..

Go you!

Maude Lebowski said...

i have to say, this sounds like the most perfect thing for you, not to be an enabler or to contribute to your delinquency, so to speak.

of course i'm always late getting around to things, but congrats on turning in the tenure binder!! woo-hoo! way to go, and good luck!!

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Y'know, I think you've hit on something here, Dr. Crazy. We're told to avoid service, that we should want to be talked out of it, etc. That we're crazy if we take on these extra tasks. The ideal is to operate like an island in the department, doing our own research, teaching our classes, and letting everyone else do the service. But the reality of the situation is that we all need to share in the service tasks and if everyone says no then nothing will get done. A department is a community and everyone needs to carry their weight. Doing service is like doing the dishes after dinner: not going to get any special recognition for it, but if no one does it you've got problems and it's probably best if we all take turns and perhaps share the duties while divvying up according to individual strengths (not letting the clumsy one near the china and crystal, but putting him on table wiping duty).

That you can find a service task that interests you, that you'll be good at, and that your department wants you to do is perfect!