Commencement is one week away and the end of the semester activities are in full swing. I presented my annual comprehensive report to the full faculty last Monday, the University’s major annual fundraising gala was last Thursday and before, after, and in between there were and are end of the semester gatherings covering virtually every area of the University from the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony to the Senior Athletes Recognition Dinner. We even added a new event this month, a hunger banquet organized by student leaders to remind everyone that hunger is a major problem for one third of our planet. And though I ended up choosing a card that determined my fate to be a low income table at the banquet ( with just rice and water ) this event stands out for me as one of the most effective ways of highlighting the plight of many in our country and many,many more in many other countries.
Major college and university events are cyclical. Whereas most classes are clustered in the fall and spring semesters, most major social events are clustered at the beginning of the fall and at the end of the spring semesters. With so many events at these times (especially in the spring) it is impossible to attend them all. What should you do? A number of years ago, late in the spring semester, I attended an event every night for 27 nights in a row. By the end, it was just too many continuous events, and my appreciation of each and every event was clearly starting to fade. It was just about at the three week point in time, when a senior faculty member in management approached me at one of the end of the semester functions and told me how fortunate he thought I was. I had no reason not to agree with this faculty member but what was the basis for his comment? When I asked, he responded immediately: he felt it was a privilege to have a job that entails attending a reception every night and he was sorry that he didn’t have a job like that.
It is a privilege to represent the University and I both enjoy the responsibility and I take it seriously. But it is important to remember that the job is much more than public events. And all facets of the job need to be addressed on a continuous basis. Twenty seven nights in a row, in addition to a typical day and especially given a family with relatively young kids doesn’t fit with the balance in life that we all should strive for. At the end of the day, we all need to remember that time is a scarce commodity.
My goal is to attend as many end of the semester events as possible and I know that the other senior administrators and the deans feel the same way. And, we also strive to coordinate our attendance so that no major event is without sufficient senior administration representation. It is important to be part of these major events for our students (especially our graduating students) and we are pleased to be in their company. In addition, we work hard to provide University visibility in the community by attending many community events, which also tend to come in large numbers at this time of the year. The bottom line is that we should do as much as we can, attend as many events as we can, and be there for our students. But just as we stress balance for our students and the importance of a well rounded student, we also need to maintain that balance for ourselves. And sometimes, regrettably, “all of the above” is not a choice we are able to make.