Renewal Twenty-Seven : Learning Takes A Lot Of Rest

Somehow, it’s as though I’ve danced with a lot of familiar feelings lately. The process is very interesting. So is the sorting it all out.

I’m finding it very difficult to not fall back into a sense of dread about what is going on around me. And of course, I’m contributing to it in some fashion by the sheer act of shaking my head or calling people on their contradictions.

Is there a place where the Boston Tea Party is appropriate?

The Academic Senate meeting on Monday was contentious, in a semi-collegial way. We are engaged in a “discussion” about academic rank, of which there is much dissent. The administration’s position is, in my opinion, concerned with leverage. Many faculty are concerned with respect. Why it is even a problem, I don’t know, our District is very much out of line with the ranking system in general. It is a simple thing to fix, it should be fixed.

Interestingly there is one administrator whom I actually trust. He’s retired, but was brought back to help out with some of the problems and processes. It was his draft that I did not particularly care for. However, he was quick to own the problems and publicly announced that there were indeed issues that were not yet reasonable.

It gets way more involved than that, the layers and hidden agendas by others are incredible. But at least this guy seems straightforward, even if his position is likely to be overridden by those “higher” up.

But still I sat there listening to some of the arguments by a number of others that seemed to embrace at least part of the administration’s position. Though most of the faculty are in agreement that the draft is just wrong, many are willing to compromise based on the administrative position that it will be faculty committees that determine faculty rank. However, as the document now stands, it is almost entirely based on subjective criteria.

Now, somebody has been running into tree limbs with their head. Uh, what is “innovative teaching,” or what constitutes “outstanding evaluations,” or what is “community service?” And does anyone believe that administrators can’t leverage faculty to vote the way administrators want? And what difference does it make to administrators to bring academic rank into alignment that is generally accepted by most college districts in the nation? What would be the problem?

All right, that’s one thing.

Then there was the student who blatantly plagiarized. She got huffy and claimed it was her own work, though she couldn’t define the words she used much less remember any of what she wrote. That the paper was using syntax way beyond that shown by the student in her previous writing meant nothing to her. The problem was mine and my inability to explain what I really wanted. Hmmm.

And then there was the mother of an adult student (I teach college, mind you) who called me, with her daughter standing right there by the phone, to let me know that I needed to understand that her daughter had some medical issues.

I was lost.

Let me think, can your daughter talk?

Well yes.

Since she is an adult, and she can speak, and since I’m not allowed to talk about her grade without her permission, maybe she should speak to me.

I’m still unclear why she didn’t in the first place. (When I later asked the student, she was unclear about it as well, offering only that her mother liked to run the show).

Then there was the department meeting. It was unbelievable. A perfect example of faculty doing administrative bidding. The net result was that we ambushed ourselves right out of a necessary faculty position, which I understand has the potential to ding the accreditation process upon our next review if we don’t fix it. And no one in the department was consulted, despite the fact that nothing is to go forward without department consent.

Well, that’s why I resigned as Department Chair, I just wouldn’t “go along to get along.”

Okay, that’s a lot of negative energy. So I keep finding myself holding my head and muttering things. But there I am, in the midst of a lot of negative energy. It sometimes feels like going into a bar and trying to convince everybody to quit drinking, then becoming frustrated when they don’t. What would I be doing in a bar trying to convince people to quit doing what one does in a bar?

There is a lot I like about the system, there’s no doubt. Without the teaching, I’d not learn as deeply, and, I think many teachers would agree, the students teach me a lot more than I teach them. Perhaps it’s a win-win situation for most of us, but I certainly know that the exposure to such a diverse group of people has accelerated my learning curve. I imagine if I really didn’t like a big part of the system, I wouldn’t be frustrated, I’d be gone (well, there is that issue of money and insurance, etc.).

But why do I not entirely accept the system, why do I not allow the system to be what it is?

Systems may be made up of people, but when the structure runs the show I become concerned. And when one, two, or a few within the structure use that organization to gain personal power and leverage others with that power, that’s not my idea of why a system is designed.

So, I sometimes speak up, as one voice at least, to try the idea of participative governance. Sometimes it works, but mostly it seems like intimidation and autocratic power rules the roost.

Still, after yesterday’s examination of getting what we want, I don’t suppose I have to steep myself in fermenting juices. I suppose I don’t have to have contempt or roll my eyes or shake my head in disbelief. That surely creates more of what I’m not liking. That isn’t healthy either.

I’m not getting the hang of this very easily. Among other things, it will take a mite more rest than I’ve been getting recently.

Perhaps I’d better get started.

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