In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
I did not see this coming.
I called a meeting of a few work areas that report to me. They’re loosely affiliated with each other, and it’s pretty clear to all involved that it’s time to rethink how they work together. It’s hard to have that sort of conversation piecemeal, so I brought everyone to the table to talk about it.
After a few minutes of “here’s where we are now” -- with which nobody had an issue -- I suggested that we start discussing alternatives. After a brief, awkward moment, a thoughtful member of one group suggested that the various groups could have a candid and productive discussion if the authority figure absented himself.
I got kicked out of my own meeting.
They weren’t mean about it, and afterwards, two of the folks who were there made points of tracking me down and letting me know that the discussion went well, they’ve devised a plan for followup discussion and plan formation, and they will invite me back when they have an option or two to discuss. They just wanted some space to think out loud without feeling like they were on display.
I’m choosing to read this as a sign that they feel empowered, respected, and trusted. They seemed genuinely happy to have the time to talk to each other, and sincerely pleased to bring me up to speed afterwards. The action plan they developed makes sense, and I’m glad that they’ll have ownership of their eventual proposal. But I have to admit, for all the meetings I’ve attended over the years, this was new.
The sports-and-music-and-meetings-and-celebrations cycle has hit the point where TW and I were actually grateful for a rainout. At a certain point, you don’t even feel guilty about it...
As a kid, I remember being sort of amazed that baseball teams could actually trade players. Now it seems that some colleges in Ohio are doing much the same with adjuncts, in order to avoid hitting a threshold under the Affordable Care Act at which they’d have to pay for health insurance. I’ll trade you a philosopher for an accountant and a first round draft choice.
It’s a simple point, but it bears repeating: employer-based health insurance is a historical accident and an economic disaster. The answer is single-payer. Otherwise, the incentive to play “hot potato” with costs will be endemic. As long as the incentives are all wrong, perverse outcomes are inevitable.
“I’m supposed to follow my passion, but what if I don’t have a passion?”
Another meeting earlier this week: as the group was settling in and the pre-meeting chatter started to subside, a single sentence floated clearly above the room:
“There’s no room for the giant muffin.”
Sometimes there isn’t.