Friday, December 04, 2009

Day 63 (Round IV) "In the trenches": countdown edition

We're into the last week of the semester. Yesterday was the final Thursday of classes, today the final Friday, and so on. Pretty reasonably complete burnout on all sides: students, staff, colleagues, executive--we're all about done.

It's been a particularly hard semester--not so much on Dharmonia and myself, who have largely escaped the worst of the shit--but on an awful lot of friends and students: illness, family loss, financial breakdowns, just general massive uncontrollable change (change is always uncontrollable, but it can come in lesser or greater degrees of comprehensivity--this semester it's been pretty much total). It reminds us of the very first faculty meeting of the semester, way back at the end of August before classes even began, when the Boss said, "I think this is gonna be a tough one, folks. I think we're going to see an awful lot of stress, of various sorts, and we're going to have be especially aware and flexible about dealing with it." I think he saw, even back then, that the nation's general economic flaemout, which up through 2008 had mostly passed-over the Southwest, was going to hit us hard in '09, and also that H1N1 was going to be absolutely brutal in its far-reaching impact. Public health in this country, and especially this part of the country, is literally, criminally inadequate, and the Boss could see, I think, even back then, that both economic flameout and H1N1 were going to catch us in the end. And by God if they didn't.

And we've seen the results: kids crying, kids leaving, kids paralyzed by depression or fear or less, kids freaked-out by parents' financial or personal turmoil, colleagues (fortunately not many in our division--my Boss takes care of his people) losing their gigs, colleagues getting sick, and so on and on and on. We're massively luckier than some campuses and even than some divisions on this campus, because we've all--Boss, staff, faculty, grads, undergrads--worked hard, for years, to develop an institutional culture that was mutually respectful, constructive, and collegial. You develop that kind of culture when times are good so that people learn how rewarding it is, and so that in turn they cowboy-up in order to maintain the culture when times are bad.

So far we're doing OK, but it's damned difficult, all around us--and it's damned difficult to see friends, students, and colleagues elsewhere, and close-by, struggling deep in the shit. We do what we can.

Hence the countdown: I think pretty much everybody in our operation is just waiting for this nasty-hard semester to be over. We fight that every step of the way, because we don't want anybody to be feeling that others, or they themselves, are just marking time--that erodes productivity, efficiency, excellence, and standards. But at times you have to be prepared to relax those metrics for productivity, efficiency, etc in order to try to help people cope with shitty situations. That's kind of where we're at now--see yesterday's post.

And the occasional levity: here, Bhangraman takes on the wicked Morris dancers, to rescue ordinary people from "...a future of performing ridiculous outmoded folkdance routines"

Which of course is right where we live.

Trying to hang in there. Y'all do too.


Terminal Degree said...

You could have been describing our department. It's been a tough ride here, too.

Chris said...

Indeed. Thank Brahma for Bhangraman!