Sunday, October 07, 2007

Academics on my nerves...

Okay, so I feel like being a bit snarky today. Perhaps it is because I am sick. Perhaps I have had too many meetings recently. Perhaps I am grumpy that the weekend is basically over. Whatever the cause, this is fair warning that the post below is definitely pointed and snarky.

I love the "School is Hell" cartoon books. In one section, Matt Groening does a great job delineating types of professors/instructors. I want to do something similar about the types of academics who get on my nerves. These archetypes are compilations of an assortment pf people from different schools and programs. [Of course, there are no representatives from my current school, where I always love everyone. :0) ] Here goes...
The Hard Worker
The Hard Worker works harder than anyone else. You know it because s/he always reminds you of how hard s/he is working. S/he is quick to let you know the 5 projects s/he is juggling and the endless hours s/he has spent on each. The Hard Worker usually shares this information when s/he is explaining why s/he cannot attend your committee meeting, take on any responsibility for committee work, or offer student advising. Hir work is vastly more important than yours, as is hir tenure. And s/he will get tenure and make you look lazy.
The Parent
The Parent is a senior faculty member who has decided that all junior faculty members will benefit from hir wisdom, whether s/he is asked for it or not. S/he routinely asks questions that are overly personal, while sharing little about hir own life. S/he insinuates hirself into the personal lives of all junior faculty members, quickly becoming a confidante. The Parent gossips constantly even while s/he promises confidentiality to the listener. S/he portrays hirself as the only person who really cares about the junior faculty members.
The Cynic
Most academics are critical about aspects of academe from time to time, but the Cynic has raised it to an art form. Everything is a conspiracy, usually designed to hurt the Cynic, waste hir time, and steal hir resources. No idea is good enough to pursue, in hir opinion, but something must be done to change the flawed current situation. The Cynic is suspicious of all overarching theoretical or philosophical approaches, and s/he constantly questions the purposes of administrators' decisions. The whole enterprise is fucked, s/he notes constantly, often to the coterie of grad students who tend to follow hir around.
The Team Player
The Team Player is a junior faculty member who is basically the polar opposite of the cynic. While the Cynic is critical of everything, especially administrators, the Team Player is a cheerleader for the administration. With hir head in the clouds and rose-colored glasses on her eyes, she believes that everything is going pretty well, changes are always thoughtfully designed and will make a department better, and that just a little bit of effort from everyone can get us to the promised land. The Team Player has a hard time hearing criticism and cannot stand to spend much time with the cynic. S/he has been wooed by the parent, has great admiration for the hard worker, and believes very strongly in meritocracy. Over time, s/he is bound to become the Parent or the Cynic.
The Slug
The Slug is a senior faculty member who stopped working and caring decades ago. S/he has taught the same courses forever, still from the same set of yellowed, handwritten notes. S/he avoids technology and any other teaching innovations, finding them faddish and crowd-pleasing. The Slug has not done interesting research in years, choosing instead to consistently "update" editions of hir one book. S/he will occasionally serve on committees, at least in name, though s/he rarely makes the meetings and is never prepared. Everyone is waiting for the Slug to retire, but no one can really imagine it happening.
The PC Police
{Okay, so I write this one pretty carefully, because I think our language and curriculum choices are important.} The PC Police approach every encounter in the department as a way to test faculty and administrators on their ability to navigate difficult issues of difference: race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, physical and mental ability, you name it. No one can ever pass the test, and the PC Police change the rules (and the appropriate labels) fairly quickly. The goal for the PC Police is not improvement or change in those people, policies, or practices that they find offensive; instead, it is merely a game of "gotcha," a chance to embarrass others and prove oneself superior. Both the Cynic and the Team Player can't stand the PC Police, though the Cynic is more likely to be dismissive and the Team Player is more likely to cry.
The life of the party (TLOTP)
TLOTP is the hub of department partying. S/he always hosts lunches, dinners, pub crawls, and other gatherings. S/he is usually found lingering in office doors, chatting away, even if the person s/he is talking to is clearly working. If s/he is a junior faculty member, you may find hir at night at the bars with the graduate students. If s/he is a senior faculty member, you can count on a hidden flask somewhere in the office. TLOTP is most likely to have a drug hookup in the community; oftentimes, this hookup is a student.
The Master Delegator
The Master Delegator gets as much work done as the Hard Worker; s/he just doesn't do any of it hirself. No project is too big or too small to be broken down into pieces and delegated to others, especially junior faculty and doctoral students. S/he often volunteers to lead committees and chair dissertations, but s/he never takes on a task for the committee and s/he is never available to meet with the doc students. S/he is good at following up with others to see if they did what they were tasked to do, but easily overlooks that s/he hirself has no tasks. S/he is quite likely to be nominated for awards, however, because hir CV has so many impressive projects listed on it.
The STAR
The STAR is famous--in the school, the community, the discipline, and perhaps the whole world. The STAR could show up on the cover of a major news magazine, where s/he is often quoted. Hir classes are overflowing, usually with a waiting list. Every student or faculty member you encounter, when they find out you work at the STAR's school/department, asks if you know hir and what s/he is really like. S/he is too busy to participate on committees, grade hir students' work, hold office hours, or show up at faculty meetings. In fact, the STAR often misses classes as well, even with hir reduced courseload. Instead, you will find the STAR at national conferences, award ceremonies, named lectures, and other important settings, usually being recognized for hir work. While the STAR makes an ungodly salary, other schools are constantly wooing the STAR with bigger and better offers. While some faculty would be glad to see the STAR go, especially the Slug and the Cynic, s/he usually brings in enough money and recognition to the department that faculty would rather s/he stayed on.
Okay, those are all I can think of right now... What others can you identify?

4 comments:

undine said...

These are great categories. My favorite--that is, least favorite--is the Hard Worker, since the underlying assumption is that s/he not only works harder but on stuff that is more important. Call it the Leona Helmsley effect: only the little people serve on committees.

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