ding dong

Sunday, 9 September 2018 07:31 am
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I should probably have mentioned that one of the things that happened over the latest bloggery hiatus is that my evil hell-boss resigned. When the Dean came into my office a few months back to tell me about the resignation, I was completely unable to restrain myself from an small, involuntary, dignified Dance of Joy. The Dean, who is a Nice Man who shares my opinion of the Evil Hell-boss, immediately burst out laughing. "You know," he said, "absolutely everyone I've told about this has done exactly the same thing."

I occasionally reel slightly, if I can pause in the fog of resentment and anger, to wonder at quite the magnitude of the fuck-up she achieved during, what, five years in office? She attempted a grandiose and misguided office restructure which achieved nothing it was supposed to because she was blissfully out of touch with the realities of day-to-day admin, and which resulted in a massive downturn in effectiveness and productivity. In the process she rode rough-shod over the staff to an extent which caused an approximately 80% staff turnover in two years. She has spent the rest of her time diligently producing administrative process manuals which no-one will ever read, and which attempt to enshrine an office practice she doesn't fully understand. When the whole thing fell apart and the staff began to actually refuse to implement any of her instructions, she had a beautiful toddler tantrum and removed herself from office (on full pay) to sulk down the hill in another department doing unspecified "special projects", while her deputy had to do two jobs simultaneously, including manage disaffected staff. She also managed to finesse this dereliction of duty to re-characterise it as All Our Fault, not hers.

As she tactfully took her last couple of weeks of work in the faculty office as leave, this means she's left already. It is actually quite odd to contemplate how little a difference this has made. The damage has been done so extensively and comprehensively that I think we're all staggering around, stunned, in the ruins, and the fact that Great Cthulhu has fucked off back to R'lyeh doesn't really mitigate the mental trauma any. Those sanity points are lost, buster. No returns.

I find it funny, though, that she came into my office to give me a breezy, cordial goodbye on her last day in office. Lots of chatting about her new post (still within my Cherished Institution, alas) and possible co-operation down the line. I am unable to decide whether or not this is the result of me acing my personal strategy for dealing with her over the last few years, which is to be Resolutely Professional And Pleasant and not to go against anything she wanted in any upfront way, so that she genuinely imagines I'm a supporter, or if she has an equal and opposite strategy of cordiality which means the whole interchange put the Genuine levels in the room at 0.00%. It's interesting, though, to realise that several decades of role-playing have some practical upshot, I hadn't thought I was capable of that kind of sustained deception.

I still want to leave this job, although I don't have it in me to do so immediately, I'm one of the few points of institutional memory left. Apart from my sense of traumatised camaraderie with fellow administrators, I shudder to contemplate the additional, hideous reduction in service our students would experience as my replacement learned the ropes. But I am not, so to speak, committed to the enterprise any longer. The burned child eventually learns to fear the fire, at least at the point where her fingers are scorched to stumps approximately at the elbows.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Oh, joy, 'tis the season, fa-la-la-la-la. Not, in fact, the thrice-dratted Xmas season, although of course it is, and promptly with the dawning of November supermarkets have blossomed forth in all the usual seasonally-inappropriate merry snow imagery in the midst of African summer, glitzy Northern Hemispherical Christmas trees, and the usual quotient of bad syrupy R&B covers of hackneyed Christmas carols given additional terror by the robotic brassiness of autotune. (How Much I Hate Auto-Tune, a rant in 56 parts. I'm saving it.)

No, the season to which I refer is exam season. Lectures ended on Friday, exams start on Wednesday, and the 5 student consultations I've held in the last three hours are all logged in my logbook with "fail fear" in the "Notes" column. They're all about to fail some or all of their courses this semester. This will variously prevent them from graduating, lose them their funding or doom them to academic exclusion. I have patiently strategised a variety of responses with a variety of desperate students whose affect ranges from fatalistic through resolved to extravagantly miserable. Three of them were in tears.

To the various individual woes (mostly anxiety/depression with a side order of death in the family) is added the very general woe of, yet again, student protests. Some lecture disruptions last week, lectures suspended for a couple of days. The bulk of our departments have thrown up their hands and given up on lectures in the last two weeks of term, electing to examine an incomplete syllabus. (Some of them, cunningly predicting just this, front-loaded their syllabus and devoted the last two weeks to revision, thus neatly dodging the protest upshot). We are supposed to have delivered the rest of the semester by "blended learning", which is the VC's favourite buzzword and which is frequently deployed in a talismanic sense which utterly disregards the realities of the situation, viz. a proportion of academics utterly unable to deliver it to a proportion of students utterly unable to access it owing to a failure of both skills and technological infrastructure.

But the crowning glory is the tent. The protesters are apparently hell-bent on disrupting exams. They spent chunks of last week disrupting tests as well as lectures. Security in riot gear, with shields, have been lurking in rows outside the main exam venue all last week. The VC's somewhat bizarre response to the exam disruption threat, which he has implemented apparently in the teeth of disagreement from the entire senior leadership group and the council of Deans, has been to hire a large tent, which has been constructed on the rugby fields, and in which all exams will take place in a "controlled" environment. I think the idea is to use the rugby fields because you can completely surround and cordon off the tent, although quite why you can't do that to the Sports Centre is not entirely apparent. The Sports Centre, at least, has solid brick walls. Threats to burn down the tent apparently popped up on Twitter within an hour or two of the relevant press release.

Last night's usual Sunday dinner featured three denizens of my Cherished Institution, and we ended up rather drunkenly strategising ways to burn down the damned tent, now, ourselves, before protesters do it on Wednesday when exams start. The plan involved layers of diversion and archers with fire arrows, probably deployed from the roof of the nearest res. Its advantage is that the conflagration will happen when there aren't actually any students in the tent, because frankly we're beginning to worry that escalating protests are going to inevitably lead to grievous bodily harm and/or actual death. And you have to ask yourself: at which point in all this management fuckwittery does your own dutiful attempt to comply with management's more deranged directives actually become complicity? At which point do you simply refuse to take part? If a student is badly injured and you told them they should go to the exam, are you in some way responsible? It's not a happy thought.

My subject line is the title of my third-favourite track on the new Magnetic Fields album.

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