Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Reflections on orientation as an old timer

You know you are old (e.g., not in your first  second third academic job) when you:
  • wonder why you have a long-ass benefits orientation if they won't let you fill out paper forms to sign up but instead require you to go online and sign up. I don't want time to reflect! I want to get it done now, lest I forget and get signed up for some ridiculous plans. 
The HR folks ought to make benefits enrollment like student registration: hold it in a lab with computers and get us to sign up immediately. This is especially important because there are multiple websites to visit--no one stop shopping here!
  • don't even consider going for the state retirement benefits and want to automatically sign up for the optional program (i.e., TIAA-CREF). Once you have been to more than one other school, you know nothing is forever and vesting is a cruel bitch. Plus, even though the market is undependable, pensions seem to being going the way of the dodo, and I don't trust anyone to really provide for me for the rest of my life.
  • don't get nervous about asking questions about domestic partner benefits. I used to worry about coming out. Now, I know the HR folks have heard it before, and they actually have an answer. Times have definitely changed.
  • don't even fret over the fact that (a) my domestic partner is not covered for most benefits and (b) the ones she does get are paid for with my taxed dollars. It is a total drag, but so normal now that it is just the way of the world. If I want to get grumpy about it, I take that energy to the federal level and turn my ire on stupid DOMA restrictions.
Other reflections on orientation...
  • Why do the people who gather data about the campus always talk about the numbers of "diverse students" when they mean students of color? Can we do some training for them about language? For the university administration? For the government, who requires all these data?
  • Food, interactions with peers and campus folks, and frequent bathroom breaks make orientation so much better. So does an iphone or Ipad.
  • Telling grown people what they can wear for orientation is ridiculous and sends a bad message.
  • Evaluations might be improved if you asked, "What are three things you learned that you are taking away from this orientation?" I bet you would be surprised what made a lasting impression. Some of the negative comments about the undergraduate students are my biggest takeaway. Don't think that was the intention.
  • Linking the orientation to the university mission was a HUGE plus. It was easy to see how our sessions and field trips reflect the mission, and therefore how we could also help further this mission. 
  • I find it interesting how challenging it is to connect to people who don't look like me at these kinds of sessions. Like seems to attract like. International faculty talk to other international faculty; young white faculty talk to other young white faculty; men talk to men. Are people looking for friends, and these seem the most natural alliances? I wonder.
Okay, enough reflection. Now on to finish my syllabus, as the semester approaches!


Anonymous said...

Ahh orientation. On your last point, people do tend to flock to other people like them right? Except at my work where none of the few women here talk to the other women here. It's almost like we're afraid to be seen together and labelled for it, or any other such implications of women talking to each other.

sherishu said...

Hey friend--it's funny to ponder who we connect to at orientation. At our former university, I did meet some white women from education who became friends, but my #1 contact? George. And #2? Shabazz. Funny, huh? Not exactly a like attracts like type of situation.