Skip to main content

Losing it

Yesterday, I heard these words for the nth time: The size of the student body hasn’t changed. The Trustees don’t understand why the size of the faculty should have to change. They will not allow us to add tenure-line positions. At that point, I lost it.

Immediately after that meeting, I wrote to my Council reps to say something like,

Our Trustees are smart people; they should understand that maintaining our reputation requires making sure that we not only address student demand for certain disciplines, but also sufficiently staff departments that provide core areas of liberal arts education. The evidence is that requires more faculty [1].

This morning, I wrote to Kate Walker, our treasurer, to ask if I could apply the same reasoning to the number of majors, what criteria she wants me to use in deciding who can and cannot be a CS major, and whether I can use those same criteria in cutting our current majors to a budget neutral level [2,3].

This morning, I also replied to the Tutorial and Advising Committee’s suggestion on how to handle the advising load in our department. Since my experience is that people don’t understand quite how bad it is in our department, I gave some numbers, too. The rest of the message was, in essence, What you suggested doesn’t work. Come up with something else.

It’s also not just the stress that these loads put on the faculty, it’s the stress they put on the department culture [4] and the limitations they put on the level of individual attention that our students can receive.

Yeah, I’ve definitely lost it. I suppose that I’ve been working with the fantasy that we will soon have sufficient resources. Yesterday’s meeting crushed that fantasy. It’s amazingly hard to push forward without having some sense that things will get better [5].

I’m oh-so-tempted to randomly cut students from classes and have them complain to the Dean that they can no longer complete the major in time. I’m similarly tempted to cut the extra section of CSC 151, which means that we won’t have nearly enough slots for incoming first-years. Those students can complain to admissions about being misled. But I won’t do either thing because students should not suffer for decisions that are out of their control.

Hey, Sam. It’s time to take a deep breath. Think about the cool projects you’ve seen in CSC 151. Think about why you chose this job. Think about the rewards of what you do. And think about your privilege.

Oh well, at least we have awesome students, alums, faculty, and staff.

[1] I said some less-nice things, too. None were directed at my Council reps. Michelle says that I shouldn’t rant in public about poor decisions I think the Trustees have made over the time I’ve been at Grinnell. So I’ll stick with I said some less-nice things, too.

[2] No, I do not plan to cap the number of majors or to cut majors. But I want others to understand the absurdity of what I am being told that the Trustees are saying.

[3] Kate and I ended up sending a few messages back and forth. In the third or fourth message, I ranted about the poor decisions the Trustees have made that have significantly impacted the budget.

[4] Which causes more stresses on the faculty and students.

[5] Just to improve my mood, I received a report from Admissions today that suggests that even more students in the class of 2021 are interested in CS than students in the prior classes. Not only won’t things get better [6], it looks like they will get worse.

[6] In terms of workload and student/faculty ratios, not in terms of the awesome students we get.

Version 1.1 of 2017-05-09.