Shit Valley

Warning: Whining ahead. 

Since the beginning of the quarantine, which is now five weeks in over here, the university administration has sent between seven and eight million emails emphasizing how we need to be flexible and understanding with our undergraduates and graduate students, how we need to check in on their mental health, and that we definitely positively should not be pressing for normal-times productivity.

This is all perfectly fine and I fully support it. But I’d like the same courtesy to be applied to us, faculty/PIs, by both the administration and students.

I am not teaching this semester, but my husband is. I have witnessed things quickly — within a week or two — going from “Put your courses online in any way you can, we don’t expect perfection” to “Students want this and that, want more synchronous teaching, more videos, want to chat in person, make it all happen, stat.”

My graduate students definitely expect (and receive) lenience from my side, but want me to keep going as usual. They’re impatient about feedback on their papers and re-submissions, even though I have service in addition to research and kids at home and kids’ school work and tons of daily cooking and haven’s had a moment alone in five weeks.

I know, I know, that’s what being a grownup means, and I have a good, well-paying, secure job, and most people are in much worse conditions now, so I should really shut up, but within this privileged life of mine, I occasionally get tired of being stuck in Shit Valley, located at the foot of multiple hills down which all the shit rolls. Kids’ and students’ shit, because they’re young and need protection and I’m supposed to be able to take it all. Admins’ shit, because somehow we faculty work in the service of them and their grand (by which I mean increasingly corporate) visions, instead of them working for us and the students.

I, too, am human, and some days (or years) I don’t wanna cook or read crappy drafts or parse adminspeak-filled emails devoid of content, and instead I want to be left alone to watch Hart of Dixie for the seventeenth time because the fictional town of Bluebell, Alabama, and its wacky inhabitants soothe my soul.

Blogosphere, what do you do to unwind? Any go-to activities, books, movies, shows?


  1. I just got my first kindle and am lovvvving catching up on all the scifi published in the last five years.

    As for university admins, I am beyond f***ing pissed at those jerks. Telling us over and over how we must be compassionate with the students, but then taking this as an opportunity to screw over the faculty, especially the lecturers. F them.

  2. I feel like I don’t even have the mental capacity to do unwinding hobbies right now! Normally I knit and sew.

    I did pay for the NYT games/crossword access because crosswords and sudoku are pretty mindless (for me). I just read Red, White, and Royal Blue, which is a delightfully fluffy contemp romance (not my usual style but I both laughed out loud and cried, 10/10!)

    My classes all got cancelled so I too am the homeschool/ childcare/ endless meal preparer and friend, I also feel annoyed and frustrated even though it could be worse.

  3. I like to do puzzles (word search, crosswords, hugs & kisses, number mosaics etc.) I ordered some back issues of my favourite magazine (Audrey Daybook) that features a lovely mixture of puzzles and lightweight stories (travel, health etc.) and it’s just been so relaxing delve into that.

  4. Our University kindly told us that they know this is a difficult time (home schooling, extra responsibilities, transferring teaching to online, etc) and so in their generosity, they will let us take a pay cut / use up our leave / go on unpaid leave if we can’t get all our work done!

  5. I keep saying the same thing. Endless e-mails about taking care of the students; no acknowledgments of challenges faced my faculty. And anything that remotely touches on this is merely lip service. The whole thing makes me so angry.

    To jaloua – our university is proposing increasing teaching load (significantly) for next year. Nobody wants that, and a pay cut looks like a much preferable solution. Maybe that was their clever plan all along (I don’t believe this, that would be far too clever).

  6. Things are going to get a whole lot worse in the near future than annoying emails. Furloughs (on non-teaching days, no less! Because the admin is evil, sorry, smart!), pay cuts, hiring freeze, travel bans, canceled sabbaticals, raised (!) tenure standards, … I don’t know what else the admin will think of, but they will think of something. I am certain of it. I don’t see it in any way making a dent to the admin bloat though. Faculty has no real bargaining power, shared governance is a myth, and faculty senate is a joke with ridiculous agenda items and resolutions. Admin bloat is self-perpetuating once started. If I am furloughed on non-teaching days, I can’t just switch off my brain those days. And they know this very well and they will take advantage of it. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Don’t mean to make people more stressed than they already are.

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