Lately, I've been too tired and too busy to blog. Also, some of the stuff that I want to blog about, I cannot blog about because it drifts into things that are perhaps not wise to air. I'm also getting tired of bitch-blogging. Actually, I'm getting tired of being just plain bitchy, and blogging is sort of my therapy for getting the bitchiness out of my head. Instead, I've been bitch-twittering.
For the most part, I really don't have too many things to bitch about. There's the usual: I hate online teaching, especially when I am the only one at my campus who can do the online teaching for history. There's the "I really need to cowgirl up and accept that I am lucky to have a job" bitching of "5/5 doesn't leave me with but two days to research, much less to things like grocery shop." There's the indication that I've regressed to my 19 year old anorexic self with the "but I just have to lose 10 lbs." (That's actually quite exhausting unto itself. No wonder I abandoned eating disorders!) Then, there's the indication that I've gone off the rails with, "goddamn but I need a 1950s Stepford Wife to take care of the mundane stuff like cleaning the bathroom and doing the grocery shopping." Really, the bitching itself is moving from the "blowing off steam" end of the bitch-o-meter to "it's taking up too much space and time in your life as an end unto itself" end.
Two things right now have me annoyed. These fall into the "excellence without money" category. The first has to do with my lovely new office. Because I became women's studies coordinator for my campus, someone somewhere decided to move me from my triangular office in an asbestos-ridden building over to the newly gutted and redesigned building. Really, the new office is quite lovely with its logical design and new car smell, and its location in the same building as some of my classes. I'm even one of the lucky ones with a window (or at least part of a window). Which is all to say that my bitching about anything about this office has the distinct flavor of "looking a gift horse in the mouth."
Yet, I do.
You see, someone else -- or maybe it was the same someone -- failed to include a printer into the budget for the suite. We have seven professors and administrators and one administrative assistant, and they did not budget a laser printer to which we can all be networked, just as is done in every other office suite on the entire campus (and probably in the entire college). Heck, they didn't even budget a printer at all for the administrative assistant. She had to go scavenge for an old one that was not being used in her former location. She got in trouble for that, but she told them that she absolutely needed a printer. If they could produce one for her before the next budget cycle (this was in January), then she'd be happy to give that old, abandoned one back.
The rest of us have printers in our individual offices, but these are those really slow, ink jet sorts, several generations out-of-date, that are one step above a dot-matrix. Given that most of us have multi-volume syllabi and mid-terms and a zillion other multi-page documents to print, the ink jet printers do not get the job done and run out of ink very quickly. We all generally use the laser printer in our suites.
Except we don't' have a laser printer in our suite.
This has been a problem since January. A dean, two program directors, and the administrative assistant moved in then. They all complained. They were told they could just go over to the computer labs to do printing. All but one of the computer labs are student labs with limited hours. The faculty/staff lab is unreliable in terms of help, actual connections to the printers (none last Friday) and even being open. They told the administrative assistant that she was still networked to her old office printer, so she could use that. Her old office is half-way across campus. They told the rest of us the same thing.
They said that a printer would have to be written into the new budget. Before that could be done, we would need approval from about three or four levels of administration all the way up through the campus provost to the college capital budget office. We need to justify our need for a printer. Again, this was back in February. We are all still waiting for the approvals. The old veteran administrator in the suite laughed cynically and said, "this isn't going to happen any time soon."
Whoever made the mistake or the argument not to give us a printer -- I would like that person to go a week without a printer themselves. That would be the hell of their own making.
Not that this is a hell. You learn to work with it. Still, it seems typical of a certain sort of thinking in which someone made a mistake and, rather than own up and fix the mistake, tells the people who have to live with that mistake that it isn't really a mistake at all and that they are the unreasonable ones for noticing the mistake. I've been on the receiving end of that before! (Quite a bit of it is the corporate culture of the Self-proclaimed Main Campus).
The other, bigger instance of "excellence without money" has to do with my lecture series, which is also connected to some of my duties as coordinator. Last year, I did pretty good in getting that lecture series on the Anniversary of a Big Historical Event going. In fact, if I must say so myself, I rocked! I intend to keep it going, and to do similar things for women's studies.
The problem is that I've rather tapped out the expertise of our faculty in relation to the Big Historical Event. To move beyond our faculty, I'm going to need money. Some of my colleagues don't understand this, but you cannot ask a published scholar from another school to come give a talk, even if they are just across town, and not at least offer transportation costs. There is a ton of talent in the city, but they should receive some recognition that, by giving a talk at our school, they are doing work. It's a matter of respecting the value of their labor.
I do plan to apply for an internal grant to cover next semester or next year's speakers, but this year is looking pretty skimpy. I've lined up an historian from out of town who will be in town promoting his newly published book. The book is on the election that led to the Big Historical Event, the talk will be on the day before election day, and the historian has a pretty strong publication record. All he is asking for is enough of an honorarium to cover his airfare, which is a very inexpensive airfare and which is very generous. Guess where this honorarium is going to come from?*
Additionally, since he is a pretty important historian, I would like to have him speak in one of our theaters and to have his talk filmed for a podcast. The ITV department has been very very accommodating, considering that they are on the Self-Proclaimed Main Campus, short staffed, and in demand for everything else. They do it for free.
The theater, on the other hand... Well, this theater has been the subject of much controversy. When it was proposed and money budgeted for its construction, its stated purpose was to use it for education, but also allow for-profit shows to rent it in order to defray the costs of running the building. Seems wise, right?
Once it was built, however, the now-ousted president decided to use it only to turn a profit with little to no educational use. That is, student groups could not use it for year-end ceremonies, productions of the ubiquitous Vagina Monologues, or performances of any sort. This all culminated in a huge scandal connected to the firing of the college president and in which a very very famous performer was booked for the official opening of the building, and the costs of meeting that performers rider far outstripped any revenue coming in from that performer's show. We are talking 5-6 digit losses.
So, the whole control and use of the theater building was restructured, and now it is supposed to be used primarily for educational purposes, and some for-profit.
Well, they seem to be running it primarily for-profit anyway. They have many many outside shows coming in; but those shows are using the large theater. I just wanted to reserve the little theater for my speaker. No problem, right? Just notify the manager of the theater, book the room, and we are set.
First, getting the manager to answer my e-mails asking merely how to do so has taken nearly a month. Second, you have to pay $40 to use the theater. The theater that belongs to the school, that is supposed to be used for education, for which you are using for education, requires a fee.
Is that normal? Shouldn't the school's facilities, when used for the school's mission, be free? I don't have to pay a fee for the classrooms. I don't have to pay a fee for ITV. Yet, I have to pay a fee for the theater.
Now, I can simply book my speaker in another room on campus -- and I will. What do I do in the spring when the women's studies students put on the ubiquitous Vagina Monologues? Women's studies on our campus (but not on the Self-Proclaimed Main Campus) has no money, and the Vagina Monologues is not the sort of thing that you can do in a classroom. I'm going to have to be very creative on this, maybe even play with the format just enough, without violating copyright, in order to pull this off.
So, what we have here are two problems. First, I was given the charge of the speakers series in order to "prove myself" to people who were not impressed, but it was such a success anyway that there is a small demand and expectation to keep it going. Keeping it going will require money. I don't even have a history department fund from which to draw to keep it going. Second, I have a position that calls for a performance of a play, which will require money, and no money to produce that play.
You can only do so much with nothing. I may not be at the end of that so much, but the end is in sight. Maybe that is a good thing? Maybe that means less work for me at my job and more time for me to research?
Meanwhile, in the "money without excellence" category, our online course platform keeps malfunctioning, students and instructors complain about the lack of IT help, and anyone who actually works on the platform just shrug their shoulders and say "I'm sorry" without fixing the problems.
I know that these are just marginal, bitching problems. These are privileged problems to have. Still, I see them as symptomatic of the overall problem that goes with "excellence without money." Faculty and staff are furloughed and don't get any cost of living increase or step increase as the cost of living does, in fact, increase, then are told "but we will still be giving excellent service to our students, and do it with a smile" as if we won't do our jobs even as more students bang on our office doors wanting into our overfull classes and the support services they receive dwindle while their tuition climbs. It's rather like asking those scholars to speak on campus without any compensation: do your job and do it well, and just be happy that you get to do it. Don't expect it to be worth anything. After all, you get to do what you love!
Something is going to give. It has to, doesn't it?
*I'm willing to get the honorarium from there -- that is, my own bank account -- in order to prove the success of outside speakers in order to strengthen my grant proposal, since, as I said, many people don't understand why you might want to have a budget to pay a speaker. This, despite the fact that a whole program collapsed because the person coordinating it was told that she had to get major authors to visit campus and speak, but couldn't pay them.