Monday, August 17, 2009

sudafed and syllabi and furloughs

Somebody put me out of my misery. Together, these 3 add up to a lethargy-inducing cocktail. They've sucked up most of my weekend and pretty much all of today (minor exceptions: looking for new apartments with MP1 on Saturday and lunch at our favorite tapas place yesterday). I don't know if I'm allergic to chlorine (been swimming lately) or if the forest fires on the N. and S. of us are just killing me slowly. The skies don't look bad. Maybe something is blooming? Ugh. It's that ants-crawling-on-the-face feeling.
Anyway, no serious writing can possibly get done under these conditions, so I've been working on the damned syllabi. One needed only minor revisions because I'm using a new edition of a favorite text book and several chapters have been re-ordered (no longer does kinship precede marriage, which in turn precedes gender. No, NOW we have gender, then marriage, then kinship and family). It is all intertwined, god knows, so we shall see if this somehow offers a more logical path of learning for students. And of course, I had to incorporate (or not) the possiblity of an instructional furlough day for this course. I chose to take/ask for only one furlough day that will impact this class, because Labor Day (M) and Veteran's Day (W) already diminish the number of lecture days in the course. So I think that syllabus is ready to roll.
My other syllabus required an agonizing amount of work. (Last night at dinner, MP2 said to me and TH: "I never knew how much work went into those things. I get syllabi that have '1997' crossed out and '2009' written next to it." Too, too funny. I cannot WAIT to do that on my last semester of teaching. I don't care if it's just fakery, I'm going to dummy-up a syllabus that reads 1997, make a big messy strike-through across the date, and then hand-write in its place whatever year it is. And maybe I'll give a multiple choice-only exam, with all the correct answers listed as "c." I have a long-retired colleague who actually did this regularly. A biblical archaeologist, he was about as far from godly as one could get. His most regular and successful ploy was recruiting cute young co-eds to drive home late at night--when the buses were no longer running--because he had never learned to drive--"being a New Yorker and all." Blech.) But I digress. So, I have taught this particular prep only once before (2 years ago), and there were some things (i.e. articles, books, exercises) that worked, and some things I wanted to jettison. With no primary text--only ethnographies, edited volumes and articles--I've got to figure out what reading order will create a decent structure and hierarchy of content and theory as the course progresses. This always stresses me out no end. (I wish I cared less about this sort of thing.) But anyway, it is DONE now. Two of the 4 books are collections of essays. One of them will be read in full, and from the other, I've selected critical essays to be integrated throughout course. I also cut the number of reserve articles down to 9, with 3 additional ones for the grad students who are sitting in. Furthermore, I have chopped some substantial pieces of writing/grading. With a 10 percent reduction in my pay, I may just go ballistic if I have to deal with plagiarists this semester, and besides that, we are being bombarded with emails from both the union and the administration reminding us to be creative about how we manage our furlough days and time. For this class, I'm taking/asking for 2 furlough days (that's a total of 3 out of 9 mandatory furlough days that will fall on instructional days). I'm fairly sure that I've sufficiently attended to the work-load reduction (grading/reading, etc.), but I'm going to let this one sit and age a bit before I consider it finalized. Lots of reading in the class--I don't think I'll be reducing that, but I may decide to change the format of exams once I'm off these meds and not sneezing my brains out.


pocha23 said...

I didn't realize the extent of new the furlough policy and thought, not sure why, that it only applied to the summer -- or at least to non-teaching days. So you can actually cut back your work load to "match" your reduced pay? Or do you still have to work the same (i.e. teach for as many hours per quarter as you did pre-furlough) with reduced pay?

We just got a 10%, largely because of the faculty union, but I foresee furloughs in our future. Were partner and I *both* full-time, this might not be *too* bad, but as it is, he's already only part-time.

Sorry about the allergies. They typically paralyze me for weeks between May and July. Hope yours go away soon! I've found that Claritin really helps -- and my doc says the generic brand (which is a lot less expensive) is virtually the same drug. It helped me survive the month of June this year.

auto ethnographer said...

The furloughs apply to regular faculty only during the academic year (we have to take 18 days--or the equivalent of 2 p/month) over the course of this coming teaching year (the vote to accept a furlough only took place in mid-July). I won't technically be furloughed until the academic year begins, but TH, who chairs his dept and is thus considered 12 month faculty, has already begun the furlough process (taking 2 mandatory Fridays in August--date set by the admin on our campus). These furloughs are especially painful for faculty because we don't work a 9-5 day like staff (or many administrators). The union has always been very clear about the difficulties of defining a work-day/load under furlough conditions. Right now, enrollments are sky-high (out-of-control, in fact, since new admissions are closed this coming Spring--by chancelor decree, many students who might have deferred their matriculation until Spring are now registering in Fall in record numbers).So now, the administration seems more okay with talking out loud about the implications of furloughs for both students (who have had their fees raised yet again) and the faculty who will be paid less, but in truth expected (due to lecturer budget reductions and heavier course caps), to do much more work. Initially there was a discourse of "don't mention furloughs to students, don't take instructional days for furloughs.") Now, I think everyone on this side of the coin understands that this is a teachable moment. How else will the citizenry of this state come to understand that it is TAX dollars that support/subsidize their public university educations? Yes, tuition has gone up, but it is nothing compared to what these students and/or their parents would have to cough up if the state didn't more than match their fees. Plus, these kids need college degrees to become middle-class tax paying supporters of the economy when they are middle-aged. So there is a delicate balancing act going on. Don't short-change the students, but don't hide the conditions of higher ed in this state. On the other hand, there is a robust legalistic paranoia that the furloughs may come back to bite the system, so we have to sign certifications that we "will not work" on our designated (Dean-approved) furlough days, nor will we engage in more work than a 4-day work week or some such meaningless drivel. It is all a big nightmare, but it IS making very transparent a lot of structural issues and assumptions about how faculty work. (The presumption is that we stand before a class for a few hours a week and just rake the dough in, with no other work at all.) I'm already sick of it and haven't taken furlough day 1 nor yet received a paycheck showing my 10% salary reduction. This is why I'm trying to think (per syllabi) how much course-work will actually help to reduce my workload. The service and research work is pretty much a total loss, I suspect. I'll have to do that and certainly don't know how to measure 10% of it. BTW, I'm on Claritan today and doing somewhat better. Hope it holds!