Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Opening Activities at a 4/4 SLAC and at a 2/2 R1: The First in a Series

At Kalamazoo this year, Notorious Ph.D. asked me if I would blog about the transition from a tiny, cash-strapped, midwestern SLAC with a 4/4 load to a big East Coast R1 with a 2/2. I suspect that there will be a lot to say, so, to distract myself from the ever-changing, endlessly bizarre situation that is the Mihi Family Housing Crisis, I will write about one of them.

Difference No. 1: Gearing up for the new year.

At Field College, this is what happens in the week leading up to a new Fall semester:
  • Wednesday before classes start: mandatory day-long faculty retreat.
  • Thursday: half-day faculty retreat/faculty meeting (which is attended by all full-time faculty).
  • Friday: all-campus (faculty and staff) meeting, at which everyone is introduced to everyone else. This is entirely useless, because either you pretty much know who everyone is, or you don't know anyone, suffer from total information overload, and don't remember a thing. After the meeting is the (equally pointless, in my view) Benefits Fair, at which you collect free toothbrushes and whatnot.
  • Saturday: students move in; we're invited to help them. I have only known one professor who has ever done so. Because: syllabi.
  • Sunday: if you're lucky enough to be teaching a First-Year Seminar, you have your first class meeting this afternoon.
  • Monday: if you advise a student organization, you have a mandatory ice cream social to attend. If you teach First-Year Seminar, you have a two-hour community service project to complete, followed by a picnic. You may also have your second class meeting this afternoon (this has fluctuated in recent years).
  • Tuesday: mandatory (and usually rather nice) opening convocation. Big picnic lunch with all the new students. Advising meetings all afternoon.
  • Wednesday: classes start.
At New U:
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • Classes start! After labor day!
As a new faculty member, I have things to do--orientations and whatnot, which I'm eager to attend (I need information!). Perhaps more senior folk have meetings, but if they do, I haven't heard about them.

There are a lot of factors at work in this distinction. Little colleges like Field need heavy faculty governance and involvement; faculty do all of the advising and need to be apprised of changes in marketing strategies, athletic recruitment, accreditation visits, new requirements for Education majors, and all kinds of things that you wouldn't think that you'd need to know about. They're also expected to be very involved with individual students; the personal connection is, after all, what Field (and a lot of schools like it) sell, and what makes them different from the local State U's. That involvement, incidentally, is what I enjoyed the most at Field, and I hope that I can cultivate some of it at New U (admittedly in a different register).

But now, my primary directive is research. And good lord, I need to get settled in a house and in my office so that I can do some.


Anonymous said...

That sounds about right based on our R1, though we have two optional events for majors that faculty are encouraged to go to. (I usually go to one for new majors but not the other.)

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

You mean there's more to the promised land than just a reduced load and more research? I'm not sure I'll be able to read this series without crying, although I am very happy for you and hope I can replicate your success someday.

I love the classroom, personally, but the students at HU are SO needy that I actually get freaked out by their complete dependence and desire to befriend faculty as if we were peers. I would love some distance!! I swear I think some would sit on my lap if I let them.

Don't get me wrong. I totally like students. I just need SOME space. There's not much to be had where I am. I keep pushing back, but they keep coming, like an overwhelming crush of zombies. I'm "there for them" but I don't want to be FB friends. And I don't want to give out my cell number, which many of our faculty do. Ye gads. I give 95% of my life to my job. Don't I deserve 5% to myself? /rant

Anyway. Good for you! I hope it's awesome!

Earnest English said...

This is fascinating. And I'm with Fie -- there are definitely faculty here who give out their cell and home phone numbers. (Of course, there are also people who do other stupid things who are lauded around here.) Yucko! And there are people who want to mandate that all emails have to be answered in 2 hours. Whhaaaat? Ridiculous.