The title is accurate for the meetings I’ve been running, as I make sure everyone has their own agenda before we start. (I send them out via email.)
Today’s topic is everyone’s least favorite part of their job: meetings. I had two this morning back-to-back, and had to “lead” the second one. No one ever seems to enjoy this part of the job, but I have found that making sure everyone is well-prepared and no personalities try to dominate make for happy, quick meetings. We disposed of six little things in 15 minutes, and could spend the remaining time getting inside a particularly thorny issue. I am pleased to report we came away with some fine plans that are easily implementable and will have a positive impact on the program.
Academic administrators at any level – even my “Temporary Honorary Colonel” referenced above – should have the following as their primary goal:
What can I do to make sure our faculty can engage in their teaching, research, and service to the best of their abilities? If the faculty can do their jobs, the students benefit by having engaged, professionally-satisfied teachers and mentors. I know there are those who might disagree with me, but the faculty have to be at the center of any academic enterprise. Maybe that’ll change when and if I move up the ranks, but for right now, that’s how I feel.
Oh, and concerning students: I refuse to think of the students as “consumers.” Rather, they are students. A university has no customers.
One of the things about being an administrator, even one with as little power as I (I have essentially the same rank as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind, and believe you me, I’m milking Temporary Honorary Colonel for all it’s worth), is that I have to deal with personnel issues. No, I don’t have the power of hiring and firing, but I do have to listen to people and work through interpersonal conflicts. This is no mean feat sometimes, for as anyone knows when you put two faculty in a room you’ll end up with three opinions.
Fortunately, I am blessed with colleagues that are collegial. We all want what is best for the students and for the program. Most of the issues have been around adjunct faculty concerns, and this is something I have wrestled with for some time. Adjunct faculty are, in some institutions, the largest group of faculty, but they have very little (if any) input in governance. They are paid horribly, usually have no benefits, and are often subject to being fired on a whim. In some places, they are expected to exhibit loyalty to an institution that will not return that loyalty, and actively looking for full-time work can be grounds for dismissal. On top of it, adjunct too long, and you may make it impossible to ever land that full-time job.
I was an adjunct for a good bit (1998-2004) and have been a visiting full-timer twice (2004-05 and 2007-08). I consider myself darn lucky to be on the tenure track. What should we be doing to help our adjuncts?
(1) A paraphrase/setting of the UMM Hymn, the Alma Mater of my current gig. This is for a concert in memory/honor of Ralph Williams, the first-ever music faculty member at UMM (and composer of the Alma Mater).
(2) A suite of miniatures for solo violin called pARTita, for David Cole.
(3) A very short opera, beginning what I think is a warm-up for a larger work (and eventually, hopefully, a full cycle of operas based on a science-fiction book that permeated my youth).
So I had a meeting with the kind person who handles the budget for the Humanities Division.
Back up: Amanda handles most of the books here, and the last official budgetary responsibilities I’ve had were as Treasurer of the Theta Pi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in 1992-93. I can and do balance checkbooks, etc., but I was completely unfamiliar with the budgeting and reconciliation process here in Minnesota.
That has changed.
The associate took an hour out of her time to talk me through the process and show me just what all those numbers meant, where they came from, etc. It was eye-opening, and I have decided to pursue some further lines within this overall field (putting in for certain committees, getting more data, etc.).
Next up: How are we using our space?
My first post about being a quasi-administrator in a faculty world consists of this quote from Gerald R. Ford, who was Minority Leader in the US House before being appointed Vice President and later ascending to the Presidency. It seems appropriate.
I was in the House of Representatives for 25 1/2 years, and when I disagreed with the occupant of the White House, whether it was Democrat or Republican, I used to say, “How can he be so autocratic, so dictatorial, why doesn’t he understand that the Congress is doing the right thing?” Well, when I moved from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other end and occupied the Oval Office, my perspective changed significantly. And then I would look down at the Congress and say, “What are those people doing over there? How can they be so irresponsible?”
While it is a bit over-the-top to suggest that taking on some small administrative duties is akin to becoming President of the United States, I think I get what Ford is saying here. What has struck me the most is how much even this very, very minor (yet very important) role has changed my perspective on How Things Work In A University.
I don’t know how regular this series will be, but I’m hoping it turns into something.
Since I’ve been taking on an administrative role this semester, I find my perception of how academia works shifting. Subtly, to be sure, but this is a noticeable shift.
To that end, I’ve decided to spend some time learning about the budget process at UMM. More on that later. I’ve also started reading some books and blogs; if I get the chance, once the semester clears I’ll start talking about that as well.
Thank you for your patience. It’s been a busy semester (a faculty search, the extra admin duties, trying to get some stuff published/out there), but a good one. Spring Break is next week. I am ready.
So Next Exit and Psalm 120 received their premieres, and Rational Exuberance was performed with great success in the Cleveland area. Gonna send a couple of recordings off soon, and I have also applied for membership in ASCAP.
Also, fulfilling a couple of requests – a suite for solo violin and an occasional piece (in the truest sense of that term) for the UMM Symphonic Winds.
As Navin R. Johnson said, “Things are going to start happening to me now!”