Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rule #1 for Professors

Well, besides "don't blog about your department before tenure", the number one rule is treat the staff well.  Academics are not always be decent or strategic, so we need to remind our colleagues sometimes that the folks working with us should be and need to be treated well.

One consistency in my career from Oberlin to UCSD to UVM to TTU to McGill is that the secretaries, office managers, financial folks, and admin people have been terrific people.  They have helped arrange my classes (rooms, times), handled the add/drop processes, fixed my mistakes (grade changes), facilitated my reimbursements, set up meetings, helped set up talks and workshops, help my grad students with their job applications, and more. 

I am thinking about this today, as the long march to Ottawa proceeds. Today's event: the McGill poli sci staff are taking me out for drinks to mark my departure.  While there has been a heap of turnover and shrinkage (budget cuts) in the McGill staff over the past decade, they have always been incredibly helpful, amazingly cheerful, and very sweet people. 

Their role as the heart of the department became more obvious by their absence during last fall's strike.  What I mean by this is that the department office was no longer full of cheerful people who laughed at my jokes and made fun of me.

Academics tend to forget that these people exist in a very different world: they do not control what they do, they do not control when they do it, they actually do have a chain of command, and they don't have tenure.  Well, maybe they have job security (depends on the union/university).  Academics range in social skills and expectations so the staff frequently get dumped with last minute work that really is not their job.  While I disagreed with their strike demands last fall, I understood why they would feel under-appreciated.

I should be buying them beer today.  Alas, I will just have to accept the beers they give me instead.

1 comment:

JWells said...

I hate to be crass, but are you sure rule #1 isn't "Don't sleep with your students"?