Wherein I Whine and Moan and Bitch About My Coworker…


My bit of internet absence recently has been due to an overwhelming amount of grading.  How on Earth does it manage to pile up so?!  When I wasn’t suffering through various magazine analyses, too-short short writings and holding forth on logical fallacies, I was busy trying to take small baby steps toward this new course the Deanly Lady wants.  This new Mission Impossible will be the subject of many forthcoming posts.  At least, if I can get past bitching about my colleague first.

I helped hire him as a partner for my original first generation student retention program.  The first year he was wonderful — a regular little brick thrower!  In the two years since, however, he’s gotten progressively more disgruntled with the position, with his salary, his recognition, the course material, with what is expected of him, you name it.  He has some valid points. I, too, loathe having to use Pearson’s largely useless and cluttered website and online textbook.  I, too, thought the orientation course we teach served little value in its presented form.  I agree we’re not getting paid enough.  I am also enraged by the lack of administrative support outside of my own department.  The difference is in how we’re dealing with these issues.

I redesigned the orientation course to provide the content I thought they needed to know while trying to honor the website material they’re forced to purchase.  One of my student evaluations this year says, “The website was worthless, but I’m really grateful I had Ms. BG.  What she gave us in the course helped a LOT, and she didn’t close the class down weeks early, like some other teachers I heard about.”  What?!  There are other teachers who are just shutting things down early?  (A secret part of me thought “Damn, how clever!”)  I put a lot of effort into the reporting of our little program, making sure it got into the hands of the right people.  I cannot control what they choose to do about it.  But I can ensure they get it — and consequently, as many upper admin as possible see what we’re capable of doing.

So far his way of dealing with it seems to be to bitch about it to me.

So, because of previously mentioned reporting efforts and student evaluations, Her Deanliness has asked us to head up the project to put new Mission Impossible class into place.  Coworker has been heel dragging ever since.  As he didn’t get his way when it came to getting more money than me or a reassignment of his job title, nor did he get the volume of classes he was expecting to teach…well, let’s just say he was told “No” in virtually every category he tried to negotiate…he’s moved on to what seems to be Phase 2:  Labor Strike.

Now again, I understand his point to a degree, and on the surface, he seems to be making a valid observation about the work we’re expected to do.  We’re paid this Spring for the teaching contracts we’ve already signed off on last year — not for new work.  The problem is, some new work is going to have to happen in order to do the summer work.  If we want those research and teaching assistants, for example, the department will have to know NOW — not in the summer.  If we want to be brought up to speed so we know where we need to start in the summer, we’re going to have to have a few meetings NOW.  He wants to do none of this, on the grounds we’re not paid to do it.  I’ve tried to point out to him that we are, in effect, doing work NOW.

For example, we have to come up with a work plan that will enable us to be paid for the summer.  It’s the one concession we got (and only one of two I’d asked for personally) and it was easily awarded — no free work in the summer time.  A new work plan is technically work we are not paid to do in the Spring; but if you want summer money, cough up the work it takes to get paid in the summer!  So far, his grand contribution to the work plan has been to say “looks good” to the ideas I brought to the meeting.  The Chair asked me to put the work plan into more outcome oriented language and offered to help me with this.  Coworker is suddenly only available for meetings just before and just after his scheduled Monday, Wednesday and Friday teaching courses.  This has to be done, so I am going in next week on my office hour to meet and get it done.

Coworker is coupling a healthy dose of passive-aggressive behavior to his little labor strike.  He’s expressing worry that he won’t have any real input into what he’s being asked to sign off on in terms of work, while simultaneously making sure he’s never available to give input, such as suddenly reducing the number of contact hours he is available to meet.  He’s complaining about not really understanding what a work plan does and being “in the dark.”  So I offered to let him rewrite the plan himself, so that he would have full input.  No, no, that’ll be OK, he’s sure I’ll do just fine.  He just wants to register concern.  Duly noted.  The one meeting we held (unpaid, snicker) to talk about the work plan, I brought my grocery list of what I thought it might take to go from scratch to pilot project.  He brought his concern about teaching a 90 person class and his insistence that we do no work this Spring.  That was it.  No suggestions about research, little in the way of making connections, no ideas about content, no ideas about time frames to get this done in — just “I don’t want to do this.”

I’m getting more than a little pissed at his lip service toward labor concessions while fully letting me take the burden of labor on my shoulders.  We have to have a work plan to get paid.  I don’t know how to do one either, but it has to get done somehow.  We’re going to have to set a few things up in order to make sure other things happen.  What I *really* don’t like is that he’s making me paranoid.  I get a sinking feeling he’s holding back on doing anything so he can bail on me and claim his input was never asked for or taken into account, so he won’t sign off on doing any of the work.  What is more likely, but no less paranoid, is that he may be dragging his heels and naysaying because he’s trying to look for work elsewhere and hopes to have an exit plan at the end of the semester, leaving me holding the bag trying to get it all done.

To which at this point I’d say, “WHOOPEE!”

So, this weekend I await with bated breath his “comments, though they will probably be limited” on the work plan I will be reorganizing with the Chair come Monday.  I can hardly wait.


3 responses »

  1. O’course, the only reason he’s getting away with letting you take on all the work is because you WILL take on all the work. If all adjuncts would hold the line and do no more work than they’re paid for (which is precious little), adjuncts could command higher pay and working conditions would be better.

    In academia, however, that scenario comes under the heading of “Never-Neverland.” 😉 Your colleague will soon learn the meaning of “one-year renewable contract.” Meanwhile, keep your e-mails correspondence, and make all requests for his collaboration in writing, by e-mail. If you have a face-to-face conversation, send him an e-mail confirming your understanding of what the two of you agreed to do. That will forestall any claims that you’re not asking him for input.

    Your remark about faculty shutting down the mickeymouse course early struck home. It’s AMAZING what people get away with, isn’t it? Last semester students in one of my MWF classes told me a professor dismissed a Wednesday class before Thanksgiving because “the Tuesday/Thursday students get a day off, and we should, too.” Also, our chair regularly reminds us that we are required to show up for final exam day. IMHO, a final exam is redundant in a composition or writing course: students who haven’t shown what they can do by the last day of class are never gonna show it. Nevertheless, we’re told that if we don’t show up, our pay will be docked.

    But every semester students tell me other classes are not meeting on the final exam days. And yea verily, the rooms are empty on the days I haul my students in. No one has ever come around to check on whether we were there. Since 80% of the faculty is adjunct, I can only assume that these absences are perpetrated mostly by adjuncts.

    Maybe they don’t care if they don’t get paid for the last day? Maybe they figure if they get caught, it’ll be like a day of unpaid leave. But the thing is, apparently they don’t get caught.

    It makes me feel like a chump for doing the job as requested.

  2. I’m torn, because I know he’s taking advantage of my willingness to do the work. I guess it’s just that a bit of work *has* to be done, there is no choice. I have to get this work plan turned in so she can request the funds. I’m not really willing to do more than I think is fair, either, and I’m aware of my ability to be the workplace work horse. I’m just not sure what else to do. The alternative seems to be do nothing, and to me, that means the whole thing falls through and I’m out of a job. Not sure.

  3. Pingback: I’m Not Paid Enough to Deal With This… « budget glamorous

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