Friday, August 16, 2002

HIGHER ED
A few days into my career as a college prof and administrator and already I'm wonder why anybody pays big bucks for the honor of attending college. What are they getting? So many of the faculty are totally burned out and classes haven't even started yet. Our first staff meeting crumbled into a shouting match between an Asst. Chair and a cranky old tenured professor and all I could do was sit there and smile, thinking in the real world, both of you guys would have been dumped long ago. The comfort for me is that - as various folksy Republicans have said - I have don't have a dog in that fight.

Conditions are curious. I'm finishing my first week but still don't have a desk, phone, chair, office or even a signed contract. They expected me to take the office of some guy who wanted the job I got, but that was more than I could stomach. I figured out how to switch things around so that he kept his space. I don't need a job where people hate me before I even give them reasons to.

Although classes haven't officially started, the campus is crowded with families dropping off their children. I feel sorry for the parents. They think their kids are about to gain the education that's going to put them ahead in the world. The kids are looking to get completely drunk for four years. Sometimes they wander into the film department office together, the parents asking about careers in film. HA! I like to recall the advice Placement Counselor Dorie Kaiser gave me upon my graduation from NYU.

Film? Who told you to major in film? There are no jobs in film. Honey, think about Wall Street.

The other amazing thing here is the absolute fear among the administration about being sued. They're always trying to protect their asses in fear that a parent will show up and threaten legal action for whatever happened to their kid. You failed him? I'll sue! You rejected his application? I'll sue! Administrator end up constructing every document given to students as a "contract", implying that since the staff handed the student a pile of papers, it's their job to read and recall all the rules and regulations and that's what will keep us from being sued.

It all sounds like the inner city elementary school where my friend taught. She would break up a fight between two kids and one kid would tell their mother The teacher hit me!. Even though this was a complete and total lie, my friend would be forced into a long, stupid process of defending herself in front of her bosses. Of course, just as if you're a guy accused of sexual harassment, there is no way to be innocent of such charges. The assumption is the accused did something to provoke the accusation. Until people themselves are falsely accused, they find it impossible to believe that other people just make up such accusations for the thrill olf victory it provides.

Other than all that, I'm actually enjoying myself. There is a mountain of silly work to get done before I get to the really interesting things for which I've been hired. I'm just going to keep my head down and do, trying very hard to avoid the interoffice struggles. Hopefully I'll contribute something useful before my contract is up for renewal in a year.

One other thing -- it's Pledge Week, so the frats are buzzing. Wouldn't it be kinda dumb fun if a 40 year old guy like me pledged a frat? How could they reject me? I'd be the only one legal to buy beer. My, my...now that there is an idea with potential.

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