Those of you who’ve been following this blog awhile are familiar with the ups and downs of my attitude toward work, coupled with midlife-crisis musings.
The thing is, when I look at my posts from even two or three years ago, I can’t believe how invested I was in my work. And, on good days, I still think I have the best job in the world. I love teaching and research; the interactions with my students are the best part of the job. The institution shows me a lot of love, I get raises and accolades. I am well respected in my professional community, even if I am not a superstar.
But every so often I get reminded of what caused me to have to emotionally detach from my job. Being too invested in the institution and the colleagues and the work itself was too hurtful too often, and what’s worse is that I felt helpless to do anything about it. This need to drastically compartmentalize, turn off certain parts of myself in regards to work, is not something that came lightly to me. There was a lot of internal struggle, some still ongoing, some documented here on the blog. Three years ago, I started focusing my energy and aspirations and associated emotions elsewhere, on my writing, and while it can be frustrating (mostly because I am an overachieving pain in the ass), it has also been healing and nurturing and so, so good for me. An endeavor where I can start from nothing, and learn, and grow, and achieve, without having to wait for anyone to catch up, without needing anyone’s permission or agreement. I also met some nice people along the way, who are smart and kind and funny and open-minded. My world became kinder, bigger, brighter.
Last academic year, I was on sabbatical and came back, apparently, with rose-colored glasses (pandemic notwithstanding). I was glad to be back teaching and glad to see my colleagues again.
Then came the committees.
Initiatives that are completely unnecessary. Meetings that could have been emails or those that take an hour to hash out completely obvious stuff.
On the other hand, a complete lack of transparency or discussion regarding some important, very non-obvious stuff.
I ask for clarification about why certain decisions were made or which specific actions were taken, and I am (as before) invariably stonewalled. Colleagues in admin roles cite HR rules, but, in reality, no one is asking for any HR-sensitive details. I am asking for some sliver of information so these decisions and actions look transparent and fair and equitable, as they should be at a public university, and do not smell of shady backroom dealings and secrecy. Instead, I am met with “We are not allowed to discuss this (and shame on you for asking).” I am not asking for anyone’s medical records or private information. But if things were supposed to happen but didn’t, or if certain concessions were made for certain people but aren’t usually made, we should be given some smidgen of information regarding what had transpired. We are not the CIA. This level of secrecy about the operations is not warranted. And asking questions should not be shameful.
The thing is, these people in the know could share more but choose not to, and it’s convenient to hide behind HR. The thing is, that there is an in-crowd, there has always been an in-crowd, they’ve always had all the information, and their mode of holding on to (a little bit of) power is knowing what they know and deciding if and when and with whom to share, and what/what to withhold. Getting tiny power-trip boners from morsels of administrative secrets.
God, I would gladly double my teaching load if it meant I didn’t have to participate in “faculty governance.” It’s faculty governance in name only. Decisions are made without us anyway, attempts to find out what is actually decided behind closed doors are shut down, yet we are all supposed to keep pretending we’re one happy faculty-governed institution.
F*ck university politics. F*ck having to play these humiliating games where I need to act like I am an idiot buying the bullshit I’m being sold.
Gimme a roomful of (masked) freshmen any day.