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Higher Education

IR retreat to RL

Yes, I was just up here at Raquette Lake last weekend with students working on the literary magazine. Yesterday I returned with faculty and staff from various parts of information resources for a planning retreat…

Here’s the thing. We are overtaxed. The bandwidth on the network is overtaxed. Faculty would like to/or need to do things with video, but the network’s ability is limited right now. The staff are overtaxed with the demands for support from students and faculty and with the need to keep expanding services. Faculty are also overtaxed. As you know faculty jobs are divided into teaching, research, and service. There’s nothing really in there about technology.

In my case, I research new media, so a part of my work with technology falls there. But if it’s research then the work I am doing should be driven by my research interests, not by curricular demands. One might imagine that curricular demands for technology should fall under my teaching workload. Perhaps, but I teach the same number of courses as someone who doesn’t use technology. And like that person, I have to create syllabi and assignments, select and read texts, hold office hours, grade, teach my clasess, etc. Technology is thus not really factored into that business. Besides, I am not always teaching technology in my classes. Many times it is simply a vehicle for learning. For example, this semester in my literary criticism seminar, we are using a blog. I’m not teaching blogging, but I have to have a level of expertise to make it work. As for service, well that portion of faculty work is already overloaded with committees and advising.

Meanwhile, the support I can get from IR is limited. They do a great job of helping me install a blogging application on the network and maintaining the computers in my classroom. But I cannot get help from them if I want to expand my understanding of Flash scripting or learn a newest version of InDesign or do some creative layout with my blog. Nor is there any money to send me off campus for such training. Hell, there’s not even a place in my job description to say I should be doing this work.

The faculty workload equation needs to be revised. I would say that 20% of my work time is spent on technology that is neither part of my research nor part of the material I teach in a course. According to my reading of my contract and the general contract between the faculty and the university, and certainly according to the way my work is evaluated by personnel committees when it comes time for a raise, none of this work counts. If I weren’t doing it, I could write an article or a grant or present at a couple conferences. 

I might even be able to go on a vacation. Right now I spend about a month every summer learning new technology. I’m not even paid in the summer.

So here’s my thing. I think I’m going to stop. I’ll keep going as it relates to my research interests…b/c that’s what interests me. But I’m not doing anything else until someone comes along and officially makes it part of my job. I have enough official responsibilities that I’m not going to take on other ones.

I should say this doesn’t have anything to do with the folks I’m on retreat with today. As I said before, they’re all overburdened. I’m just not going to pick up the slack.

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