• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    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.


Friday Fragments

Turkey, lionfish and an enigmatic mutt.

December 6, 2019

The stretch from Thanksgiving to the end of the semester is one of the two times of year when academics have the shortest fuse. (The other is from mid-April to graduation.) In the bad old days before internet shopping, the need to Christmas shop came at exactly the time of the grading crunch, which always struck me as cruel. At least now the shopping part is easier.

It’s an especially good time of year to remember to cut people some slack when they seem frazzled, and to maybe take a moment to ask the extra question if someone doesn’t seem okay. Sometimes a moment’s kindness can make the difference.


Happily, it’s also one of the times of year when students show their stuff. The biology department had its students do a poster session earlier this week, open to anyone interested. It was set up a bit like a science fair, with trifold cardboard displays, but the work was a lot more sophisticated.

After days of meetings, there’s something restorative about talking with a student who is proudly explaining her research on the lionfish. It’s why we have all those meetings in the first place.


Speaking of college students, having The Boy back at home for a few days was glorious. He invited a friend who attends Virginia Tech to stay with us, so when the UVA vs. Tech game was on, the house was divided. TB gloried in the victory, even as he openly envied the UVA students who stormed the field immediately after. His friend was a good sport, keeping the cursing to a decent minimum.

We had been looking forward to the emotional reunion when Sally (The Dog) saw TB for the first time, but Sally ignored him and went straight to me. I’m guessing it was her wounded pride at work.

TB is happy and thriving at college, though he admitted looking forward to “not adulting” for a few days. I couldn’t blame him. We hadn’t seen him in three months, which is the longest we’ve gone without seeing him since he was born. The first night he was home, TW slept like a baby. Even Sally eventually came around; the prospect of an extended belly scritch was too much for her to resist.

He took Amtrak to and from, with mixed reviews. On the positive side, the fares were decent, he had plenty of leg room (which isn’t always true when you’re 6'7"), and he didn’t have the luggage hassles that come with flying. On the negative side, it’s painfully slow. My quick-and-dirty recommendation for making American intercity rail more popular: speed it up.

Given how late Thanksgiving was this year, he’ll be back again in a couple of weeks. We’re already looking forward to it. I hope the dog is a little more welcoming this time …


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