Monday, February 28, 2005

Faculty/Staff divide, part 2

So, I've made my complaints as I see them from the staff perspective, but there are certainly ways that the staff also accentuate the divide. Some of my colleagues are with David Horowitz on the issue of faculty work and salaries. Some think that faculty only work when they're teaching. Some think they get paid a ton of money. I can say that I make more than some of the incoming t-t faculty. They don't understand the intense pressure of being on the tenure-track. They don't understand that it's not just that they may not have a job at this institution anymore, but their entire career as a faculty member might be over as a result of not getting tenure here. So I find myself educating folks a lot. I described faculty in a meeting once as independent contractors. It's not that they don't care about the institution, but until they get tenure, they often must put their own issues first. This may not be entirely accurate, but it was a metaphor most people could understand. I also describe to them the process of preparing for classes and doing research and explaining that Mr. Geeky often works until the wee hours of the morning writing and programming and writing again. And that this is typical. It's also typical to work on the weekends.

It's also true that we staff members sometimes aren't as responsive as we could be. And sometimes we're rude. We're small. There's one of me for 100 faculty. I also serve the staff (400) and students (1200). With those kinds of numbers, it makes sense that we get asked the same questions over and over again. I sometimes have to remind myself that before I put some good documentation and outreach in place, I got 250 Blackboard questions in one day at the beginning of a semester (and that was only e-mail, not phone calls). This year, that was down to about 20. I can deal with 20 and I should do so happily. Sometimes the 21st will put me over the edge though. :)

We often promise too much. We think it will only take us a minute or a day to do something and it takes longer. A problem arises or we get interrupted by more immediate problems and next thing you know, 3 days or a week can go by. We could be better at estimating how long something will take to do.

And, while I stated in my earlier post that many staff view their jobs as careers, as making a contribution to the educational mission of the college, many others see their jobs as just jobs. They come in at 9; they do what is required of them and then they go home at 5 and don't think about it. There are days when I do that--and I'm very glad that I can--but most of the time, I'm thinking about things, reading things, writing about things that have to do with my work on my own time.

There's no easy solution to these divisions and the longer I work at my current institution, the smaller the gap becomes, at least for me.