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What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

I’m a curmudgeon. You should know that by now, at least if you’re read more than two or three of these musings. That means that I tend to complain about a lot of issues, some of which seem minor to other people, but most of which are important to me. And I’m sure that my complaining sometimes interferes with their ability to do work.

Today, I got to deal with a variety of curmudgeonly actions, comments, and questions from others. Few of them targeted me directly, but they all certainly involved me. What’s happened? Let’s see.

Yesterday, I wrote a longer-than-expected musing on campus rumors. In that piece, I discussed the construction of a new Admissions Building on campus. I support the construction of that building [1,2]. But I wasn’t clear about that support because I emphasized my frustration at our need to construct a new Admissions building about a decade after the prior one. So my comment led to some followups on Facebook which have now evolved into a forty-comment dialogue. It is interesting to see how strongly people feel about the various issues. I should probably muse about the new Admissions center soon to make my feelings clearer.

Yesterday, we had our annual campus budget presentation by Kate Walker [3]. As I’m sure I’ve said in the past, I don’t always agree with Kate, but I appreciate that she really seems to have the interest and mission of the College at heart in what she does. Is that relevant to what I’m going to say next? Probably not.

A soon-to-be-graduated CS major who happened to be sitting next to me raised their hand and asked (approximately): CS has way too few faculty for the number of students in the major. There’s no reason anyone should be advising seventy students. CS was wonderful when I arrived. Now, given those size issues, I’m not sure that I could responsibly suggest that anyone attend Grinnell to study CS. But CS majors help the budget. So what are you going to do about that? [4]

Kate’s response was sensible: I don’t set the academic priorities. That’s why we have Executive Council. I do my best to support the priorities that the Dean and Council send to me. It appears that the student followed up with Kate, and Kate added If you have concerns, share them with the Dean and with Council.

You can probably guess the outcome. This evening, I got to see not only the student’s concerns shared with the Dean, but messages from alumni to the Dean about staffing in my department. Now, I appreciate the concern that the students and the alumni have about this issue. But the Dean is an ally of the department. He’s helped us grow. He’s supported some additions to our budget. I expect that complaining to him will do little good. So I wrote a reaction and mailed it to our department listserve.

But the student is following in my footsteps, as it were. This issue is important to them. They worry what the high student to faculty ratio does for the culture of the department; that is not an unreasonable concern. They worry about my health [5]. So they want to raise these issues. They even found data and to support those concerns [6].

To make matters more fun, someone read my reaction and interpreted part of it to mean that I knew that we had been approved for a new tenure-line position. They wrote something like Why do you know about the status of your proposal, and these three other departments don’t? I can see myself writing the same thing in that situation. However, I don’t know anything about the state of our proposal. That is, I neither know that we have been approved for a new tenure-line position nor that we have not been approved for a new tenure-line position. As I understand it Council is still weighing possibilities [7].

What’s the point to all of this? These events were all helpful reminders that when I go into curmudgeon mode, it affects others. There are even aphorisms for this experience. One appears at the start of this musing. Here’s another: What goes around comes around.

I guess that means I shouldn’t rant about the impossibility of finding the names of Council members on the College Web site.

[1] I do wonder whether we would have been better off gutting the Forum; it’s a wonderfully central location for Admissions. And I say that knowing that it would screw with my parking.

[2] I’m told that Admissions indicated that they would prefer to have a room in which they give presentations and were told You can use the HSSC. Is that being penny wise? I don’t know.

[3] It’s also Kate’s last campus budget presentation.

[4] This student calls themselves a junior curmudgeon.

[5] I am fortunate to not only have awesome students, but to have these students care about me.

[6] They also discovered, like many before them, that it’s hard to figure out how many tenure-line positions each department has. They made some (over-) estimations.

[7] I have heard some rumors about things they may do, but I do my best not to spread rumors.

Version 1.0 of 2017-09-18.