Sometimes, I meet people and mention that I’m a scholar of Hispanic literature and come back with “you should read Isabel Allende / Paolo Coelho! These are really good authors!” I have to repress the desire to look around and see who they are talking to.
I get the same feeling when people give me links to WashPo or NYTimes expecting me to take them seriously.
And by the way, my attitude of doing things with people in mind first and foremost is bearing fruit. Two colleagues went above and beyond for me today. One made huge efforts to correct a big fuckup I committed (yes, I’m human, I mess up) that he didn’t have to make. Another interrupted his sabbatical to help me out with something personal.
And I’m also seeing people quietly respecting my foibles of which I have many (like not being cc-ed on emails without some dire necessity or not asking the secretary to do things).
Everybody is truly collegial, in the best sense of the word. Peace, love, bubble gum.
There are many things one can do as Chair to save oneself trouble and generate goodwill.
For instance, we hire non-tenure-track people to teach lower-level language courses. The schedule is made long before contracts are signed, and the way it’s usually done is that in October we schedule a bunch of courses for next Fall and then, come August of next year, start scrambling like crazy to find people to teach these sections. It’s a major headache because people’s availability doesn’t coincide with the scheduled sections.
I did things differently this year. I chose as my point of departure people and not sections. As I made the schedule in October, I put the courses in the time slots I know that my non-tenure-track instructors prefer. And I contacted them in April, not August, to ask if they were interested in teaching. People like to have security in terms of what their schedule and earnings will be. It’s not good to ask them in August if they will be available to teach in three weeks. It’s so much better to do it months earlier to show respect and save them stress.
As a result, the non-TT instructors feel valued and respected. They have more time to prepare their courses. And I have happy workers and no headaches planned for the busy month of August.
I’m basking in the happy glow of knowing that I set things up in a way that helps the instructors know if they’ll be able to make the mortgage payments as early as possible. This is better for the students, too, because they know who will be teaching their section in advance and plan accordingly. All it takes is thinking about the people first.
This is why I love being chair. I’m helping people, and it feels damn good.
Somebody who works in the office next to mine said, “I have no idea how you manage to work on your research while constantly interrupting the work to send emails.”
I asked her how she knew this was what I was doing.
“You have spells of slow, quiet, tentative tapping on the keys, interspersed with bursts of loud, fast, aggressive and almost furious tapping,” the colleague explained. “It’s clear that the fast and furious tapping is when you write emails.”
The observation was so correct it was almost creepy.