Saturday, May 08, 2010

Faculty Behaving Badly

Do you think I could make a million dollars by pitching a show to a cable network that's based on highlighting the most egregiously-awful faculty behaviors? Could I be the Chelsea Handler of higher ed?

I think the pilot might involve the abuse of the campus-wide/whole-faculty email function. I'm sure that some IT guy, when he programmed this function into the mail service, figure that it would be a crucial function. There ARE announcements that the entire faculty needs to hear: graduation speakers, faculty governance issues, all-school calendars, etc. And actually, I like to know about speakers, concerts, class presentations, even if I can't or don't plan to attend. Hell, I don't even mind the occasional "I left my thumb drive in Classroom 117, has anyone seen it?" message. What I cannot abide, however, is the use of this communication feature as a means to castigate others publicly and/or pontificate. And really, how often is it one without the other?

Case in point: weeks ago, a committee sent out an announcement about a program they had designed for the campus community, and very kindly were inviting people to take part in. And then the email responses begin.
•Cranky Western Civ Guy: "I don't approve of the content of this program. Shouldn't we instead be forcing students to take part in [ideology A]? Your program contributes to the downfall of Western culture."
•Young Hipster Dude: "on the contrary, I've taken part in a corollary of said program, and it is works as a sincere questioning of the make-up of Western Culture. Which would be obvious if you'd read anything about said program."
•Dr. Can't Let A Conversation Go On Without Him: "I'm also concerned about the status of Western Culture. Kids nowadays. What are we going to do with them? I suggest that all take part in a a multi-hour re-training program that supercedes the one that this committee planned."
•Professor Literacy Advocate: "Based on this fascinating discussion, Western Culture is something we're all interested. The suggested program, however; approaches this in new and exciting ways which I support."
•Dr. Gravitas: "I think the point here is that the initial committee got off its collective ass to plan something, and thus it's their show. If you all want to plan something else, do it your damn selves."

Thank you, Dr. Gravitas!! If only you'd included the phrase: "now stop cluttering up my inbox with this crap, you pompous windbags!" That endpoint notwithstanding, the "conversation" finally died down, based, I think, on the reasoned position of Dr. G, as well as the relative weight of his seniority and stature.

BUT THEN!! Weeks after this has all finally gone away, Dr. Endowed Chair chimes in! As if none of this has happened! He too has concerns about the effects of said program, and the way that the students will interpret the implications of "our" decisions to run said program!! Oh, wailing and gnashing of teeth! And we're off, again, into round four thousand of faculty who see this as their opportunity both to express their individual opinions about the state of Western Civilization as we know it, and to offer their own brilliant suggestions about what the campus as a whole should be spending its collective time thinking about. [Thankfully, this last round ended in what I can only imagine is a shared sense of incredulity that shocked people into silence. Dr. Insano suggested, based on recent ecological events, that we all carefully examine and discuss this Malcolm Lowry novel. Sweet Jesus on a popsicle stick.

I'm floating a new suggestion amongst my colleagues who are equally suspicious of this abuse of the campus email, and it goes something like this. There should be some sort of non-negotiable, semi-punitive sacrifice that community members must make if they want to use this function. Non-negotiable, no exceptions. I suggest that they be forced to give up a toe. Then we'll see how important you REALLY think your contribution to communal discourse is.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

western civ guy huh? now i'm super curious if you're talking about place i know about...

Saturday, May 08, 2010 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

always possible!! Also possible that these characters exist in multiple versions at virtually every campus...

Sunday, May 09, 2010 9:13:00 AM  
Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

Oh yeah, they're definitely cluttering up the listserv at my institution! It's like all that hot air that used to be saved for inflammatory faculty meetings now has a whole new platform for venting. It's truly an abuse.

Consider me in favor of the lopping off of toes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Marxy said...

I support toe excision. Hell, I freakin' love this! I think I'll propose it as a motion at our first fall faculty meeting.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 1:32:00 PM  

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