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  • 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.

October 24, 2008 - 3:47am

There was a time when I usually used the word "rocks" as a verb. Now it's very much a noun.

In implementing the current round of budget cuts, the first task has been to get every example of a few categories of expense on a single list, so we can prioritize. This is harder than you might think. I've already had several meetings that have gone pretty much like this:

DD: "Okay, so now we finally have everything, right?"

Colleague 1: "Right."

DD: "Good. So our total is..."

C1: "Wait! What about [bizarre, byzantine exception]?"

DD: "Huh?"

C1: "That started several years ago, when [long-gone admin] told [litigious tenured prof] that if he did [something he didn't want to], he would get [plum] every [so often]"

DD: "Huh?"

C2: "My area does that differently. We do the plums twice as often!"

C3: "And I stopped giving them out two years ago, based on a conversation with [other long-gone admin]"

C1: "Is that why [other tenured prof] is always complaining about unequal treatment?"

DD: {sigh}

Repeat for several hours, until the living envy the dead.

Every time we turn over a rock, something nasty and slimy and awful crawls out. Worse, the nasty thing manages to dislodge another rock.

The long-term good news, I keep telling myself, is that eventually we'll run out of rocks. Eventually, all the nasty and slimy stuff will be exposed, and we can get a handle on it and move forward. And replacing all the slimy stuff with transparent and aboveboard arrangements will be more sustainable, once we overcome the inertial resistance.

That's what I keep telling myself.

But I'll admit, at the end of a day like this, it's a stretch. There's just an amazing number of rocks out there, and it's tiring. And each little slimy discovery mounts its own defense.

It it really still only October?


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