Want to know what runs professors down and makes them cranky and extra protective of their time? The freakin’ service, that’s what. For non-academic folks who may still read this blog, service = the business of running departments, programs, majors, colleges, and curricula, as well as hiring, reviewing, and promoting — or not — other professors, plus a bunch of other stuff that’s too “inside baseball” to mention, as well as all the other academic-related stuff that goes on at a university (special lectures, conferences, film series, blah, blah, blah). And then there’s service to the profession and the discipline, too. I haven’t even mentioned that here. In other words, the university works because we do, and that work isn’t just teaching and research. And one of the big problems at my university is that we’re being shrunk by attrition so there are fewer and fewer of us to share the burden of the service. Excellence without money!
Anyway, I’m off to yet another meeting of a committee that is killing me and preventing me from doing as good a job as I should on the teaching and research parts of my job — at least this week, anyway. And what kills me the most is the fact that committee work is the hardest to control and organize. Your classes meet at certain times, and you block out things like writing time, office hours, class prep time, and so on. But when your fellow committee members send you stuff to read and respond to hours before it’s due or hours before you’re going to meet about it (or you don’t see it until hours before because you were teaching all day and couldn’t check e-mail), what are you going to do except drop everything and respond, or be the asshole who doesn’t pull his weight?
Sigh. On that note, gotta leave for that meeting!