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Topics/tags: Rants, academia, rambly

Today was not a good day. It doesn’t help that I’m utterly frustrated by the state of my country, from what appears to be a completely biased process for a completely biased candidate for the Supreme Court, to a president who thinks it’s okay to make jokes at the expense of a victim of sexual assault, to the release of financial information about that same president that we all know will make no difference at all to his supporters [1].

Because I had meetings on campus today [2], I spent the day there. And, for whatever reason, being at Grinnell puts me in contact with too many things that make me upset. I ended up complaining about a severe breach of faculty governance. And documenting that issue took time. I keep thinking to myself, Why does it have to be me who notices and raises these issues? Yesterday, I had to deal once again with a strange process by which our job ads get edited without either Council or departmental approval. I’m sick of having to worry about such things.

It doesn’t help that two years have passed since Student Affairs mucked with the PCard Privacy Policy, making it no longer applicable to faculty and staff. In fact, I raised my first concerns on October 3, 2016. If the Dean’s office can expect my department to come up with a thoughtful approach to Research Opportunities for All in three months and then to revise it in even less time because they changed the parameters, why can’t ITS develop (or restore) policies in a reasonable timeframe? And it’s not like it doesn’t make a difference, there’s already been one clear case in which the revised policy appears to have permitted a severe ethical violation [3,4]. Why can’t I let this damn issue drop? I don’t know, but it keeps haunting me.

There are also the smaller things that were at the back of my mind and that came to the forefront as I met with people today. Why don’t advisors have to approve students switching to S/D/F [5]? Why is it that we don’t have the chair of the first major sign a declaration of a second major? Why do we limit the essay that accompanies a declaration of major to 200 words [6]?

Then there are the things I heard about but decided not to respond to. The one that most sticks in my mind is yet another example of someone deciding to leave out a department on an announcement for no apparent reason.

The meetings, the emails, the frustrations, the administrative tasks that should not be my responsibility, and more [7] ate away my day. I should be writing, not getting upset and spending my time on this stuff. It doesn’t help that next week I have to be back on campus for at least two days [8].

Okay, deep breaths. Let’s think about the positives. I helped a student think through both study-abroad issues and a four-year plan. And it’s one of those students who are very enthusiastic about getting a broad liberal arts education. That was fun. I got to spend a few minutes talking to one of my favorite junior colleagues, someone I haven’t seen much of recently. I got to make them wince when I mentioned one of Middle Son’s new activities [9]. I saw an interesting panel with the Grinnell Prize Winner, three alums, and another amazing colleague. At the panel, I sat next to an alum I haven’t seen in a few months and two staff members I particularly respect. I got a free lunch. I learned about another Grinnell alum that everyone should know about [10]. I raised a concern about the Web site and had it addressed. I had time to muse. Youngest son showed me a wicked [11] hack. And, maybe, I’ll get to see Saints Rest tonight. I only wish they hadn’t scheduled it at 9:00 p.m., or that they’d put the time in the Campus Memo.

Whoops. I’m going downhill again. I think I’ll stop now. Suffice to say that I’m grumpy today.

[1] I know that I’ve said that I would not generally discuss politics in the musings. At this point, I can’t help it.

[2] One necessary department meeting blossomed into multiple meetings.

[3] Yes, I’ve said this before. I’m getting close to the point that I will write to the Dean and say If you don’t want me telling the S&B about this issue, get ITS to restore the old policy. But I don’t like making threats.

[4] Admittedly, it’s not clear that the policy itself permitted the violation. However, there was a severe ethical violation, and the policy and processes did not prevent that violation.

[5] Pass/Fail, in common parlance.

[6] I wonder if I’d get in trouble if I required all of my advisees to write at least 500 words, including an explanation of what makes a strong liberal arts education. I’m sick of I checked all six boxes, so I have a good liberal arts education. I’m also sick of my inclination to ask students about checking off those six boxes.

[7] I think I spent an hour each on SIGCSE and Wilson Center business.

[8] Monday is my standard day on campus. I need to observe a class, attend a Division meeting, and meet with students. Thursday we have external reviewers. I’m going to do my best to avoid campus on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, even though I’d like to attend the Faculty Friday lunchtime discussion of advising.

[9] I got someone else to wince, too.

[10] That may be tomorrow’s musing.

[11] I’d written cool hack. Grammarly suggested neat hack. That’s worse. So I drew upon my New England roots and settled on wicked.

Version 1.0 of 2018-10-04.