RBOC

  • Some of DC1’s friends from programming class two years ago are starting an AI club.  They’ve asked hir to be an officer (though zie doesn’t know which position yet– not president or vice president).  They had a hard time finding a faculty sponsor and I think ended up with a foreign language teacher.  They also have to have 10 members whereas previously they only needed 5.
  • I’ve noticed over the past year or two that admin people at my university have started to become way less helpful and much more bitchy in every single interaction.  Previously everything seemed like it was coming from a place in which they wanted to help their constituencies (exception:  the grants office and the IRB, both of which have always been pretty awful) and now it’s borderline hostile and they don’t have suggestions for who to talk to next whenever there’s a small problem.  DH says that it was always like this for him at the engineering college and it’s just now spilling over to liberal arts.  Though I don’t think he ever had a problem with his IT like I have problems with IT.  Assuming that it’s not just random:  Is it inflation causing people in customer facing occupations to be underpaid?  Is it pandemic fatigue (though we’ve been ignoring the pandemic for a year and a half at least now)?  Is it Trumpism saying that the idea that we’re all in this together is only for idiots and helping people should be avoided at all costs?
  • If you know you’re not going to referee a paper, just decline right away!  There is no reason to drag it out!
  • Recently I have often felt like the only full professor in the faculty who actually remembers anything ever.  A part of me wonders if this might have something to do with me being possibly the only full professor in the department who didn’t get Covid Alpha.  (I got probably BA5 post-vaccination + booster.)  It’s driving me a little bit crazy.  (Example, department head who was hired 2 years before I was asked for committee volunteers to create alternative measures of excellence given that the university measure doesn’t fit well outside of grant-heavy sciences.  And I was like… didn’t we do that 5 years ago?  Wasn’t X on that committee.  And then X was like, oh yeah, I WAS on that committee.  I should be able to dig up our report.  And Bam!  no need to reinvent the wheel.  But it’s also stuff like remembering that we need to do teaching observation for promotion and tenure cases.  Or that we agreed to certain action items at the last curriculum committee meeting.)
  • DC1’s economics/government teacher told students not to fill out the American Community Survey if they get it (I got one recently!  That makes it 2x I’ve done the equivalent of the Census long form.  I am represented!) because it is a violation of your freedom.  He also told them that they say they will fine you for not doing it, but they don’t actually fine you, because after a while they just give up.
  • Word is correcting “Once sufficient data are gathered…” to “…is gathered…”  DH says this is a sign of the end times.
  • DC1:  My government teacher said he didn’t understand why economists think sunlight cannot be a scarce resource.
    Me (after much twitchy silence): It’s not that sunlight can’t be a scare resource, just that it wasn’t in England in like the 18th century
    DC1: Right, because the sun never set
    Me (after a pause where the wheels in my head turned): I am so proud.
  • Harvey Mudd changed their essay questions for the first time in years.  That means DC1’s wonderfully written, “Why Mudd?” essay from this summer is completely axed.  They only have two questions instead of three now.  I wonder why.  Maybe the lack of SAT scores means they’ve been getting too many applications?  DC1 thinks zie can cobble together different pieces of discarded HMC essays and state flagship essays to answer their “how have your experiences led to what you want to do with your life” question.  But it’s a bit of a setback.

18 Responses to “RBOC”

  1. bogart Says:

    Ooh, that’s frustrating on the Mudd essay. Please convey my sympathy to DC1.

    Word replacing WordPerfect was an early sign of end times, as far as I’m concerned, so this is just another step along the path.

    Speaking as a university staff member whose responsibilities have historically been somewhat flexible (I can make the case for prioritizing some things over others, and often get buy-in) and included administrative, research, and teaching (non-curricular) components … for most of the time at my (private, flush) university employer, there’s been, well, a lot of flexibility and some redundancy among staff, even the staff whose responsibilities are “just” administrative and lower level (contingent somewhat on managers and such, but all the same).

    Since c. 2008 (i.e. the last downturn) there has been a trend toward … documenting, and billing. I mean, we do this anyway, but smaller and smaller chunks of time, and tasks, require more and more paperwork, sign-offs, etc. So if I’m just doing “my” job in “my” home unit, OK (though I have more work to do relative to time available/expected, previously), but if I’m going to take on (or swap) tasks with someone else in another unit, it’s increasingly hard to be able to do that without pushback. Of course I can do it on my own time without documenting it (and sometimes do)! But often the paperwork involved takes more time than the task would (no kidding). And it’s left a feeling that you [fellow staff person] won’t help me (or the faculty I support) so I-won’t-help-you, not just in a crabby way, but also in a way that my job takes more time because I can’t just take on the stuff-you’re-not-good-at-but-I-am, and know that you’ll have my back when the tables are turned.

    But as I say, this institution was historically flush and staffing had at least some redundancy, and there was a norm that faculty time was valuable (if you can imagine!), all of which have seemed to me to be lacking at many institutions for some time.

  2. CG Says:

    At least at my institution, we have been understaffed for the last decade+, so all the admins are doing more than they want to be. So the idea of taking on an extra thing is pretty unappealing. I don’t know why things would have changed recently where you are, though.

    As for remembering things, there is a black hole in my brain where previous assessments, self-studies, assessments of learning outcomes, curriculum reorgs, etc. go. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t remember any of it. We’re constantly having to do something like that and the requirements are increasingly Byzantine. I just can’t keep track of it. I will literally find things in a folder that I personally wrote and have no memory of writing them.

  3. Lisa Says:

    I love it when my kids say something clever that takes me a minute to catch – yay DC1 and smart kids!

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    People suck: I feel like it’s pandemic related even if people aren’t acknowledging it’s a problem anymore. I think those folks who have “moved on” from it have also absorbed the “get mine and get out” sort of attitude.

    My brain fog is a longstanding thing, as are my memory problems, and I’ve been shoving all my institutional memories into documentation to help but boy do I have a hard time with remembering things.

    Wait, why is the ACS a violation of your freedom? Citing above memory probs: I don’t remember if we got one.

    Clever clever DC1.

    Such an annoying development for DC1 re the Mudd essay.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    You’ve accidentally used a gendered pronoun in your first bullet. Feel free to delete this message after fixing it.

  6. Alyce Says:

    I worked in college admissions, and read many applications. I’m willing to bet they scrapped the why Mudd question because they got a lot of generic and unhelpful responses. And it’s also the type of question where people overwrite. The truthful answered could be provided in 2-3 sentences (I’m interested in x,y,z field of study and Harvey Mudd is good at it. And I want to be in CA where the weather is nice and the politics are liberal and I’m grateful that Harvey Mudd is part of a consortium with schools with more women than a school like Harvey Mudd would ordinarily expect to have), but people will go on and on about fluff because they don’t feel like they can provide the straightforward and simple reason. A small percentage will blow it, in terms of their response actually demonstrating that they’re not really interested in the school, but for most people, their answer will add little of value that helps them distinguish why the school should pick one applicant over another. If I were in the admissions office, I would mutiny against this question.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Snif. DC1 gave such a great response. Because there really are very few small schools where you can try out engineering without having to commit. And zie knows zie will be doing computer programming but maybe not just that, so getting a broad tech education. And hir desire to deep dive into music. And hir ability to work hard and steadily. And DC1 is such a nerd. And so on. Only written really nicely in a way that told some of hir story.

      There’s a lot of sameness to so many of these schools, but HMC is quirky and different in a way that maybe only Swarthmore comes even close to. (DC1 did look into Ross hulman or whatever it is called, but the terrible gender ratio made it a no. Women are canaries in STEM major coal mines.)

  7. First Gen American Says:

    Very sad about the essay switch knowing how many hours mine spent on his common core essay this summer. What a bummer. Triple fingers crossed on HMC for DC1. All my son’s favorites are reach schools so I’ll be an interesting year.

    I will second what was said above. Our support functions, even in the private sector, are grossly understaffed. However I still don’t appreciate it being taken out on me who had nothing to do with staffing decisions.

    I’m personally bummed about test scores being removed from some application processes. One of my professor friends says that it especially hurts the international students for grad schools because it’s harder to rank people when some of their reference work is in other languages. A test score was an easy tie breaker when some Data wasn’t easily available to access.

  8. EB Says:

    My son hated the idea of curating himself in college essays. For one, he just sent in a paper he had written for his English class. It worked.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 doesn’t have any. Just FRQs which are short and lab reports. STEM here is good but humanities are horrible. Though I’m not sure I want a fascist or racist assigning papers… or having to write about how a piece of fiction is a biblical allegory since ALL western fiction is just biblical allegory according to the current English teacher.

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Here’s another example— I put in a request for reimbursement for $50 just now.

    It just got denied for insufficient funds.
    In the past, I would either get an email asking what account to use OR in this case, they would hold onto it until my bursary had turned over. I do not know why my bursary has not turned over when school has been happening for a month. So that’s something I have to figure out. (In the past the person might have gone hold on it’s September, why is her bursary empty?)

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Another example. I didn’t get a reimbursement from my Europe trip and emailed the uni to ask about it. They’re like double check with your bank, it should have deposited early august, and I checked. Then I was like can you give me any more information. They’re like oh, I guess the bank didn’t accept it.

  11. Bleatings, swervice, and badmins | xykademiqz Says:

    […] third issue, one that the Grumpies noted in their recent post, is the increasingly hostile attitude of a lot of administrative staff. It has become a serious […]


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