Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still alive, really

Classes started last Wednesday, which means that we're through an entire week now (if Wed-Tues = a week). Actually, one of my classes--this one-credit course that I'm teaching as an overload--started last Sunday, which is pretty lame if you ask me, but at least I'm teaching the Honors section and truly the students are delightful, thus far. But a Sunday afternoon meeting, especially at the end of two solid days of moving into dorms and orientation activities, is no one's idea of a good time. (I am earning this $600, which is the pay for a one-credit overload around here. And yes, that's dreadful pay. I am not doing this for the money. [Nor am I doing it for love, exactly.] I'm doing it for the Honors Program, to which I have pledged my soul.)

One thing I forget is how tiring it is to get back into the teaching routine. All of my classes are fine--even great--so far, but I find that I'm exhausted after each one. My schedule is a little dicey, too: MWF I'm on deck at 8, 9, and 11, so the early afternoon has been (so far) pretty much a loss--I can hardly stay awake after lunch. TTh is much lighter--only one class on Thursdays, and two on Tuesdays (the overload being one)--but I still had to nap on the couch between my two classes today. Sheesh! And I'm barely on top of things for this week. The long weekend will be good for just reading ahead a bit and getting things under control. Complicating matters, our offices are being recarpeted this week, so we've all been kicked out for a few days. I'm very excited about the new carpeting and the general cleaning out/redecorating that it's inspired us all to do, but I'm also feeling rather off-kilter and keep realizing that I put things into boxes that I would really like to have at hand. Oh well--it's only until Thursday, if all goes well.

So this is not a particularly interesting post, but I felt the need to break the silence around here. I've been writing posts in my head for the last two weeks but never actually sitting down to compose them (obviously), and my hope is that at least re-entering Blogger will give me a bit of a boost back into blogging. (Can you tell that we've been talking about alliterative poetry in Brit Lit? Heh.)

OK, anyway, must read for comp before passing out. I wake up earrrrly tomorrow--5:30, in fact, for reasons which I'll disclose at a later time. (And with that--which makes my reasons sound far more interesting than they are--I bid you all Good Night!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goody-Two-Shoes, That's Me

Having just read Dr. Crazy's recent post on higher ed reform, and having also just come from the first day of our faculty retreat (via a colleague's house--sorry; I'm a little drunk; I'll try to make this coherent or at least typed well) has me feeling...dare I say, good about my dinky little college.

Here's what's what.

First, yesterday we got raises. Or rather, we had a meeting with the president and AND (Awesome New Dean, for those just joining us) in which the current financial priorities were explained and we got our new salary envelopes. Now, okay, our salaries really suck pretty deeply, and the board was recently made aware of just how badly off we all were compared to other institutions in our state. So it's not like we started off strong and this is just icing. No; even with my (quite modest) raise, I'm way below equity. But it's a start, at a time when most colleges and universities are doing no such thing. Moreover--and more importantly--full professors were given priority in the new salary scheme. Many of the fulls have been here for ages, working away for like $50k--more than I make (let me be clear: my salary still kind of sucks, like a lot)--but quite a terrible salary. And they got the big bumps. And this was explained to us, by rank, quite fully, such that I'm okay with my modest raise and really pleased that the college is looking out for its more senior folk, too--folk who, in this profession, could not get other jobs at this point and who could, therefore, safely be screwed over if the administration so chose.

Now, there's a more cynical reading or two of all of the above, but I don't think that there's any reason to pursue it.

Second: for like the fifth year in a row, our enrollment is at a record high. And, because we are tuition-driven and have NO endowment or state funding, this means that we're doing okay (by our piddly standards). Benefits are secure. All retirees were replaced last year and we have one new tenure line. Our new hires have stellar records and great degrees. And with the large number of new faculty that we've hired over the last few years, there's a lot of energy--a lot of positive change. (Our senior faculty ROCK, by the way. But many of them are tired. It's good to have new people to push us forward, too.)

Our priorities this year involve, essentially, assessing how well our curriculum integrates and advances our liberal arts mission. We have a lot of pre-professional ideology to push against, but I like the direction of our agenda--and that pushback is not from the administration, and that's a good thing.

And we discovered this summer that somewhere in the range of 60% of our first-year students are first-generation; it seems to me that this is relatively high for a SLAC, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's good to know. It will surely affect some pedagogy, but it also has helped me, at least, think differently about our mission and what exactly we're doing here.

I hate to be a Pollyanna. And so I'll admit that, yes, this job is rotten on a number of days: we do too much, we are too small, and have I mentioned that our salaries are lame? But at least I feel like we're pointed in the right direction (and doing better financially than we have in a long time, apparently), and that everyone is pretty much on board. I hope that there are other colleges out there in the same boat, and that the outlook on Higher Ed need not be as bleak as it so often seems.

Monday, August 9, 2010

You know what is NOT a useful document title?

"Maybe useful for a footnote."

Especially when that document is in a file called "Research" and dated October 2007. What on earth was I even working on then, anyway?

(I'm in end-of-summer organizing mode: this morning I handwashed all my wool sweaters. The wrists are aching, so on to the virtual cleaning!)