It’s the service, stupid

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!


9 thoughts on “It’s the service, stupid

  1. *Sigh* Wait until you get assign to the “Assessment of the assessment process committee”. Specially when your institution doesn’t have a formalized assessment process. Then things get fun.

  2. Boy, oh boy, do I hear you! It’s like housework: someone has to do it, but nobody really appreciates it until it isn’t done, so those of us who know how to clean jump in to help…

  3. Preach it.

    I have been blowing off some minor committees so far this term. Not exactly deliberately, but the things to do for them keep falling off my radar, or conflicting with Life Stuff, and so . . . it just hasn’t been happening.

    Beating self with wet noodle.

  4. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop concerning a particularly onerous committee duty I’ve agreed to handle this year. In our latest collective agreement, the committee’s lost a great deal of power so I fully expect the meetings to consume even more time as annoyed members posture at length.

    I also hate the annual report’s new question: how does your teaching support your research when I get stuck teaching all these service courses. You see how ten straight years of teaching graduate methods and the first year survey along with electives ranging across 3500 years of history support anyone’s research program!

  5. And then there are those of us who would actually like to have more of a voice in larger departmental and university conversations and decisions, and to whom service actually looks pretty good — especially if it’s the price of eligibility for tenure. This is not said naively, since I’ve suffered through enough church and community-organization committee meetings to know just how imperfect the committee process often is. Nor is it meant as a criticism, just a reminder that, for every overworked tenure-track faculty member, there are probably 2 or 3 contingent faculty members who’d be quite happy to shoulder part of the load in exchange for even the illusion of a bit more control over and voice in our conditions of work. In short, it’s a sad situation all ’round.

  6. We have too few faculty (especially senior faculty) so I do a boat load of service.. I do three jobs for each of which most people get a course release, and I have one course release. I figure I’ll do it this year, and maybe next, and then cut back to what is manageable.

    If everyone did a little, no one would have to do too much. But that assumes when some people did it, they would think about the interests of people other than themselves. Ahem.

  7. Thanks for the collective “I hear ya!” everyone!

    And Cassandra, you make a very good point, assuming that said service actually gave you a voice or a say, and at some places, it does. So, yes, point humbly taken. However, at our university, most service does not give you a voice (except at the department level). It *should*, but we have an autocratic president who puts his cronies in place at the provost level, and yes-men (and women) at the dean level, and disempowers all the rest. But we still have to jump through all the hoops, and right now, some of the committees with which I’m involved are full of a lot of hoop-jumping.

    ETA: Sorry, I’m a little angry at our administration and cynical about the whole process right now.

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