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Ways to say No (#994)

Topics/tags: Overcommitment

I’m on sabbatical. That means that I should be avoiding work, particularly service work for the College [1]. Nonetheless, I keep getting requests to do things at the College and elsewhere. And it appears that I’m too used to giving the incorrect answer. Will you run a Faculty/Staff Friday? Yes. Will you give a talk on the History of Tutorial? Yes. Will you be the treasurer for my campaign? Yes. Do you want to be involved in Tapia? Yes. Will I meet with my Dean to discuss belonging, inclusion, and persistence? Of course.

It’s actually worse than that. My personality is such that I’m also tempted to volunteer to do things. The fall of 2021 represents the 50th anniversary of the first Tutorial. Can I be involved in the planning? I hear that we’re once again going to try to rewrite the Faculty Handbook this coming summer. Can I be a part of that?

So I need to learn how to say No, or perhaps words and phrases like No, since that word seems so difficult to me. Will you meet with this student group? Sorry, but I’m too busy right now. Will you supervise a MAP or independent? My schedule is iffy enough that I don’t think it would be fair to you. Will you write me a letter of recommendation? I haven’t taught you in a year or more, wouldn’t someone else be better [2]. Wouldn’t you like to go to a two-day retreat on assessment? Sorry, I’ll be out of town [3,4].

But I’m not good at separation. I still seem to be attending department, division, and faculty meetings. But that’s partially because I don’t think I can complain about things unless I’ve been part of the discussion. Way too much seems to happen each year and I’d rather observe what goes on and be able to insert my point of view. For example, I missed the December 2 Faculty Meeting because of a conflict, and because there was nothing particularly controversial on the schedule [5]. Yet there was a discussion of end-of-course evaluations for the First-Year Experience which didn’t appear on the agenda, and I don’t like the direction we went. The vote two decades ago was to have the same end-of-course evaluation for every course but Tutorial. FYE should have the same evaluation form [7,9].

Whoops. I didn’t mean for this to deteriorate into a rant. And didn’t I say that I shouldn’t complain about things unless I participate in the discussion?

Maybe I should just say No to caring about this stuff [10].

[1] It’s hard to take a sabbatical from my responsibilities to my profession. But I suppose I could learn to say no to those things, too. The biggest issue is that most are multi-year commitments.

[2] Yes, I’m still writing some letters. I’m just trying to keep the number down.

[3] That’s true.

[4] There are years in which I would try to reschedule my obligations to make the assessment workshop.

[5] The agenda had an opportunity to approve the minutes of the prior meeting, an update on restorative justice work, a vote on the Digital Studies Concentration, a debrief about the second-year retreat, and remarks from the President, Dean, and Chair of the Faculty. I sent my comments on the minutes [6] and my proxy for the Digital Studies Concentration. I figured I could read about the other two issues in the minutes.

[6] Perhaps we’ll get to approve those minutes at the first meeting of the new year.

[7] I heard that at least one argument was that the staff teaching the course didn’t have a say in the design of the evaluation form. Even if the regular faculty teaching the course didn’t design or approve the form, they do have authority over it. But if staff members are teaching a credit-bearing course, they are temporarily acting as faculty [8], and so their teaching should be reviewed in the same way as faculty.

[8] Right now, the FYE is an experimental course. If staff are going to teach the FYE over the longer term, we will have to officially designate them as faculty.

[9] Because the College didn’t use the official EOCE form for the FYE, the forms they did use are not available for department chairs to peruse, and reviewing EOCEs is supposed to be one of the chairs’ responsibilities.

[10] No, that’s not gonna happen.

Version 1.0 of 2020-01-21.