Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Usual Boss Rant; or, Even Though It's Illegal, Can't I Just Smack Him in the Head Once?

As you know, I work nights at a law firm. You would think that would be the miserable part of my life, but no. My boss, whom I hardly see, is great. He's intelligent, funny, and takes me seriously, and he's incredibly cute to boot. The rest of the job is ok except for a few small problems, which I'm not going to discuss at the moment. No, my problem is with my day job, the one that should be filled with joy.

You may have been wondering where I teach. Twice a week I get on a train and go up to Westchester to a medium-sized state university and teach social science. I like the school. The students are only 60-70% dim-witted and I don't see my fellow faculty most of the time. The ones I do see are incredibly intelligent and funny people, and make me feel honored to be among them. But my boss- well, that's another story.

To be direct about it, my boss is an idiot. A moron. A benighted self-important dimwit. My boss is such a twit that he makes the average fifth-grader look politic and wise. And, with all due respect to the chairs of academic departments and the difficult, boring, thankless, and hard work they do, I want to punch this jerk in the head. Hard. Until my hands hurt and my knuckles bleed. And then I want to hit him again.

It started a year and a half ago, when I finally found some ambition, spoke to a friend of mine in the humanities department where I teaching, and asked him to approach the then chair with a an interview for a possible job. Robert, blessed be his name, is a senior faculty member and has clout everywhere on campus. Considering that he comes across as a bit geeky (look up the word 'bookish' in the dictionary, and Robert's picture will be there, waving back at you), he is quite the social mover and shaker, and I begged him to use his clout in my favor, which he did. And so I nervously went off and met with the then chair, a woman who was absolutely wonderful and who pretty much defines the adage of 'sisterhood is powerful.' One thing led to another, and she offered me an adjunct position in her department, two classes in areas out of my expertise, but which wold have pushed me to grow as a teacher. I was thrilled. Quite frankly I would have taught pretty much anything she had asked, but I felt humbled by her trust. Dr. Helpful, as I'll call her, made me want to stay in teaching for the first time in a while.

That was last spring, towards the end of the semester. I taught two mythology classes for humanities, and began to look up information in the subjects for my classes. Yet sometimes I have this inner voice that talks to me, and I've learned to trust it. And against all logic this inner voice was telling me not to order books yet.

Towards the end of summer I got a call from the department, asking me to come in to see the chair. Which I did, and found not the woman who had signed me up, but someone else. We'll just call him Dr. Lunkhead.

Dr. Lunkhead told me he was the new chair, and he wanted to meet with all the adjuncts and say hi. He had one of those faces and voices that seem very friendly but make you feel in your purse for your wallet. He proceeded to ask me about my academic background, and when I told him my dissertation topic, he decided I wasn't qualified to teach my course. I should really be teaching something else. He looked over the schedule, saw an opening, and gave me two sections of the same course that he felt were better suited. Now, I can pretty much teach anything if I have time to prep- but at this point I had about two weeks to order books and decide on a syllabus. We talked some more and I asked him if there were any openings in the department, and he said there really weren't (whic hwas the opposite of what I'd been told by Dr. Helpful). He also expressed concern because he didn't know how I could live on an adjunct's salary.

If you didn't know, adjuncts make crap money. However, They usually work at morethan one school, or have some outside job- so this was rude. Quite frankly it was none of his business how or if I was making ends meet. And then the capper came- he told me that there would be seminars where professors could present during the semester, and when I mentioned my work again, he said the seminars were full up for the year.

I left his office smiling like an idiot while imagining what he would look like with a crochet hook shoved up his ass. When I spoke to Dr. Helpful later that day, she told me that Dr. Lunkhead an his friends had pulled off a coup and gotten her removed; it seems they didn't like a woman being in charge. I told her what had happened to me and she said it was typical of him to act very sympathetic while pulling the rug out from under people, especially women, and trying to make them feel unimportant.

I spent the semester avoiding Dr. Lunkhead. I ignored his idiot emails in which he suggested people go to this or that museum, while mentioning that he had no idea if one could get to those places without a car- but never putting the website urls up that had links ot how one could get to the museums by bus or train. I ignored invitations to departmental events, just so I wouldn't see him. When the department secretary had a baby, I made mittens and a hat, gave them to him to send to her- and he told her someone else had made them.

Today I had to go see him regarding some paperwork, and asked him again about seminars for the semester. Presenting at a seminar is a good way of getting the word out about one's work while having yet another item to add to a curriculum vitae, so I wasn't seeing him just to gaze upon his beauty. He told me that the next semester was completely open, who was on the seminar committee, said I should contact them and asked me what subject interested me, and I said I was intrigued by the networking capabilities of Ravelry, and how it not only connected people but seemed to have it's own versions of class conflict. He informed me that I shouldn't get my hopes up because they were concentrating on the idea of community since the department would be offering some certification in that area. I said that I was talking about community, and he said that it wasn't community as they were viewing it. This went around in circles for a while until I finally reminded him that my doctoral work had been on community- and he said that maybe they might have a slot for me. I walked out, came into my office, ran into one of the committe members, and have an appointment to speak with her later today. Meanwhile, I'm feeling so glad that I can't get arrested for my thoughts.


The Mad Crocheter said...

What an asshole. Times like this, I'm so glad I never achieved my goal of becoming a professor. I am very tempted to crochet up a voodoo doll for you.

Kristin said...

My dad's an adjunct at a satellite campus of a junior college. This semester, about a week before classes began, he was told he'd have to follow the syllabus & book list of the teacher (who is a grand high muckety-muck at the main campus) teaching the course at said main campus. Either she or one of her reps passed along this info. He replied that no, if that were the case, he should have been informed before he agreed to teach the course. The people at the satellite campus support his decision, he's taught the course several times before... so it's just frustrating that the main campus people feel every so often that they need to intervene, just to throw their weight around. As if he's not capable of making his own decisions... Never mind he's been teaching for 40-some years.