Refuse to take on independent studies. That won’t really hurt students, who tend to take independent studies as much for the sake of scheduling convenience as to satisfy a burning desire to conduct research that couldn’t be undertaken within the context of a regular course. Special note to the untenured: You should say no to independent studies under any and all circumstances. They are major time sinks. You get no credit for them, and they take away from the already limited time and energy you have available for the work that will matter come tenure time. The clock is ticking! Say NO!
Refuse to take on service roles that feel pointless and don’t advance the cause of shared governance. Example: Conducting merit reviews in years when there is no merit money. The argument has always been that you do the reviews anyway so that the money can be awarded retrospectively on that magical day when the bronze turtle out in front of the library turns into a pot of gold. Bull$hit. Conduct the review if and when the funds materialize. Stop wasting our under-compensated time in the meantime.
Reduce the size of thesis, exam, and dissertation committees. In the moms’ department, for example, dissertation committees have four members from inside the department and one from outside. Lop off one of those insiders, and the student is still assured a range of input and an adequate supply of recommendation writers. . . .
Scale back the surveillance/mentoring of junior faculty, which crossed the fine line between helpful and pathological about two years ago. Moose jokes that junior faculty are observed so frequently that their classes might as well be co-taught. . . .
Similarly, dial back on the number of external reviewers required for tenure and promotion,which slipped into crazy territory about a decade ago. Srsly, folks, given the size of some fields in the age of hyper-specialization, it’s darn near impossible to find six people that candidates haven’t known in either a biblical or dissertational sense. . . .
Unionize if you can; work like hell to make your faculty senate an effective advocate on workload and compensation issues if you can’t. A recent studysuggests unionization ”‘greatly increases faculty influence’ over faculty salary scales, individual faculty salaries, and the appointments of academic department heads and of members of institutionwide committees.”
Much of her advice falls into the category of avoiding “invisible teaching work,” as Dr. Crazy memorably named it. Why should we pay the price for administrative “efficiency?” Why should we cover the cracks in the edifice of higher education with smiling, simpering, grateful countenances? As Cotton Mather would say, it’s “Madness.”
After Mather’s “Warnings from the Dead” (1693), heed Roxie’s “solemn admonitions unto all people, but especially unto young persons.” Of course, her advice can’t save any of us from the big sleep, but it just might help some of us avoid career death. As that ol’ debbil Dr. Mather himself once said, it’s a “Blessed Medicine for Sinful Madness.” I’m busy today yukking it up in the eighteenth century, so get on over to Roxie’s World and share your further ideas with her. (Or state your opinion–do you agree that “A Living Dog is better than a dead Lyon?,” 3. He seems to cast aspersions on dogs in disagreeing with that proverb.)