Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Sure, Kid, Where Would You Like Me To Put Your TV?"

Last week the Dean at my college created a page in his Facebook comparing our school to the school in the Harry Potter movies and asked students to name the teachers who would play the various characters in the movies. Naturally the students are having a ball with it, and the page has been very busy for the last few days. One student told me everybody will “get the treatment.” Okay, I know, of course, that students do stuff like this all the time, and think energy like this when it comes from the students can be a good thing. But I have a problem with the Dean instigating and then cheerleading for a project the net result of which is the mocking of our faculty. Am I making this up?

Similarly, the administration of my college, which is very small, decided at our founding that it would be nice if faculty helped the students move into the dorms at the beginning of the academic year. They have asked us to do this every year since we opened our doors in 1999. I have declined, but others, especially new hires worried about tenure, have not. Think about this: faculty carrying students’ golf clubs and tennis rackets, stereo components, and so on. I guess this could be fun if you liked doing that sort of thing, although I’m not sure it really sets the tone for the future relationship between the student and the professor. But again what disturbs me is that this order, basically to “have fun,” comes from the administrative level.

At my school one of the ways to fire a tenured faculty member is for “non-collegiality,” which can mean anything from not doing enough committee work to being snotty at faculty senate. In the past “collegiality” was a word that described how we managed ourselves as peers. But in the hands of the administration it becomes one more manifestation of administrative clout. I feel that the Dean’s Facebooking and Faculty Moving Service do something similar.