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Like a Thief in the Night
June 29, 2010 - 10:06pm

They don’t teach this stuff in dean school.

I hear a rumor that a professor has moved out of his office, and intends to take a job this Fall thousands of miles away. Nobody knows the institution, though, only the geographic region. He has family there.

I’ve received no communication at all from this professor. Neither has his chair. Neither has human resources.

I wander by his office, and notice that not only is it empty -- this from someone who has some pronounced “packrat” tendencies -- but that his nameplate is gone.


I email him, asking whether I should report a larceny, or if there’s something I should know. No response.

Keep in mind that this guy has tenure, and is technically entitled to his full slate of classes in September unless he resigns in writing. Since he didn’t sign up to teach summer classes, the fact that he hadn’t been around for the last month or so didn’t raise eyebrows. I’m supposed to assume that he’ll be back, rested and ready, in September.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that he’ll be back, ready to go. Maybe he’s having a midlife crisis, throwing all his worldly possessions in a box, seeing America from a convertible with a woman who’s too young for him, and snapping out of it by Labor Day. Maybe he’s the victim of a really clever prank. Maybe he has already headed out for wherever he’s going, and just couldn’’t be bothered to tell anyone. Maybe he’s trying really hard to find something there, but hasn’t yet, and wants the safety net. Maybe the black helicopters took him. Maybe he knew too much about the iPhone, and Steve Jobs had him, um, rebooted.

I have no way of knowing.

If he doesn’t return, of course, we’ll have to scramble to cover his classes, and I’ll get the “the administration should have known” stuff. But if we get his classes covered and he comes back, we’ll have some cranky substitutes on our hands. People don’t like prepping for classes that get taken away at the last minute.

Emergencies happen, I get that. I’ve had professors die mid-semester. But the fact that he cleaned out the office suggests some level of forethought.

Wise and worldly readers, you make the call. What’s the best administrative response to this?


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