• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Title

The end of which year?

Before I got into the higher ed sector, I had a hand in payroll processing for a fairly large corporation. With a lot of different unions. Each with its own contract, and rules, and peculiarities.

Back then, Christmas was a major pain, primarily because of the calendar. Some unthinking individual had scheduled it just before Dec. 31, and for some reason my family expected me to take the whole day off right during the busiest time of the year. (Some years, they even wanted me home on Christmas Eve, as well!)

August 12, 2009
 
 

Before I got into the higher ed sector, I had a hand in payroll processing for a fairly large corporation. With a lot of different unions. Each with its own contract, and rules, and peculiarities.

Back then, Christmas was a major pain, primarily because of the calendar. Some unthinking individual had scheduled it just before Dec. 31, and for some reason my family expected me to take the whole day off right during the busiest time of the year. (Some years, they even wanted me home on Christmas Eve, as well!)

Over the years, I've known accounting and finance folks who felt the same way about fiscal year end (whenever that fell for their employer) and tax folks who knew that the year ended on April 15.

But in my current job, it seems kind of like I get three or four continuous months of year-end. Or, perhaps, year-ends. It can get a bit tiring.

First, there's the end of the academic year -- sometime around the middle of May. All student projects have to get wrapped up neatly. (However much I push the students I interact with to get things done before the last minute ... well, you know ... somehow it never happens.) And anything that involves faculty has to find a good stopping point because as soon as Commencement rolls around (or sometimes a few days earlier), all the faculty members disappear from this plane of existence. Academic year end is probably the most stressful of the bunch in part, I suspect, because I feel totally out of control.

Then, there's fiscal year end. Not as big a deal for me as for the financial folks, but still ... Like any operating department, mine has budgeted funds which have to be spent or at least committed before the cut-off, or they disappear. And other funds that we can't legally expend or commit until the new year starts. And shortfalls in the old year which will have to be made right (however) at the first opportunity. And unanticipated funds evaporation because some brass hat (all right, some "suit") decided on a last-minute reallocation based on his implicit sense of priorities. And all the rest of the challenges which are typical in a largely unmanageable environment (even in years without major recessions).

And now. Now's not really a year-end, at least not an explicit one. But now's the effective year-end for a whole batch of projects. Campus infrastructure renovations and improvements which are best done in the absence of large numbers of faculty and students. Lots of work to get done in a short time and a limited geographic area, no way around it if construction is still underway when the students arrive, and the unfortunate fact that every project on campus is being slowed down, to one degree or another, by every other project on campus.

During April/May, my sympathy goes out to some portion of the faculty -- the increasing (and that's the good news) portion of them who get their students involved in projects outside the classroom. The good news is that what's learned outside the classroom is learned more profoundly. The bad news is that it's learned at a less predictable, less controlled pace. And as someone whose involvement with students is generally project-related, I can see the stresses.

But then comes August. Faculty aren't around to get in the way, but faculty also aren't around to help out or even to appreciate the amount of work that's involved getting the (newer, better, greener) campus ready for a new academic year. Somehow, it seems a bit unfair.

On the other hand, I get to take a whole week at the end of December.

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