Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bring on the Crazy

Ok, I don't really know how much of this I can actually blog about, since God only knows who reads this thing, so excuse the vagueness to follow. One of my truly crap duties this semester is to sit on an faculty committee that serves as the gateway for many academic proposals. Whether or not there's ever any actual pressure or high stakes associated with being on this committee, I have little idea, but it always makes me nervous. People bring major programmatic changes here; they come to request starting new majors and general ed requirements and institutional policy. In the past, the committee had been known to torture people; you were called before it and sent away to do more research; the conversation about your proposal was often dictated by the whims and proclivities of members of the particular body. Once a month, I live in fear that I'll vote the wrong way and someone will have my head on a platter. [I'm a nervous nelly; what can I tell you?]

Today, there was a proposal on the table, and a very good one. The presenter had done all--and I mean all--of her homework, down to charting the phases of the moon and the potential for plagues of locusts that might occur should any change happen. She was waylaid, however, by the impact a former change, one that she had absolutely NO PART in. Despite the strength of her argument and her research and her planning, her proposal was tabled, meaning that she'll have to wait at least a year to put these changes into place; and that's IF this committee ever gives it's approval.

The facts of that situation are bad enough, and sitting there watching someone you know and respect, that has a good idea!!!, get hammered is never any fun. But the real rub is that I'm affiliated with the previous change--the one that's coloring faculty reaction to hers. That previous change was made fully in accordance with the rules, and the people who oppose it (in retrospect) admit that. But the vehemence of their reaction to it is nothing short of scary. One of the faculty members who is incredibly vocal about her displeasure with the change is not a member of this committee, but she shows up every time a similar proposal is on the table to voice her objections. Today, she was in fine form, and in speaking against the presenter's proposal, she raised the specter of the one I was involved in. She spoke through gritted teeth and with her index finger wagging; and she looked me dead in the eye as she made her opinion known.

I mentioned that we made the previous change in accordance with the rules, right?

Hours later, I find myself shocked and somewhat appalled by the obvious rage animating this woman's reaction. That's not hyperbole, either; she was enraged. There are two things here that make me incredibly sad. First, the idea that changes made in one division can so upset others, whom it affects not at all. What is the situation in which you can become vicious without something having any impact on you? [Here's a concrete example, although not the one I'm talking about here. Months ago, our science faculty voted to suspend a program because of lack of interest. I hoppen to think that the program is a good thing to have at the college, and I'm sad to see it go. I'm not enraged by it. When I see science faculty in meetings, I don't bring it up over and over, or even at all.] What is the psychology of the person who gets so wrapped up in others' business that she's holds them accountable--as well as others who might want to make similar changes--into perpetuity? The second thing: also on this committee is one of my senior colleagues who was also associated with this change that we're now being derided for in multiple public forums. While she had personally opposed the change, she was outnumbered (in a straight up and down vote), and agreed, in the interests of affiliation, to go with the group. In addition, she now profits quite handsomely from the change as it was instituted. When the nutburger with the gritted teeth ripped us a new one, however, she said not a peep. And when said nuttypants waved her finger in my face, my "colleague" wouldn't even look at me.

Without context, I don't know that any of this makes any sense. I do know that all of that "I'm totally into this semester and holding it down now" is currently at low ebb, to say the least.

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