Dr. Crazy writes a letter. . .

And it’s about her schedule!  Read on:

So, yesterday I got to send my twice yearly email in which I explain to the person who does the scheduling in the department that the days of the week on which I teach are not negotiable. . . . No, Colleague, I am not willing to be on campus five days per week when I am also

a) doing really crappy service (which, incidentally, no one else will do, and it was difficult for them even to find a temporary replacement for me during my sabbatical this semester).

b) teaching a night class.

c) teaching an online class.

d) teaching four preps.

No, Colleague, I will not take one for the team.  If there is a problem with the schedule on the days of the week that I’ve requested for my teaching schedule, then that means that you will have to ask one or more of the people who do not do a, b, c, or d to change their schedules.  I know.  You think that I’m a real b!tch for expecting you to earn the course releases that you get for doing the schedule.  I know those other people are mean, and you don’t want to confront them.  I understand that you’d rather get “nice” people like me to do what you want, than force the “mean” people to do something that they don’t want to do.  Except, um, no. I say no.  I’ve actually said no for four semesters.  In a row.  Perhaps you could make a note of it to yourself?  Because seriously?  If I need to explain this one more time, I might f^ck!ng lose my mind.

Could that really be an exact copy of the e-mail she sent?  Awesome!  As she explains in the comments below, “I think that’s what’s so frustrating: you can only explain the same thing so many different ways before you realize that the issue isn’t that you’re not being clear about your needs but rather that nobody actually cares about your needs.”  Yep.  Sometimes you just have to get up in someone’s grill and become one of those people who doesn’t get asked to change her schedule because you’re such a b!tch.  A former department chair messed with my schedule once, threatening to put me on a four day a week teaching schedule, so I resigned.  (Okay, that was kind of a coincidence.  But she was asking for it.)

Here’s an idea:  volunteer to be the scheduler next year, Dr. Crazy!  You get a course release, you can schedule your courses first, and you can irritate this person by giving her 8 a.m. classes AND evening seminars.  On the same days!  And you can drop the other crappy service obligation.  Win-win-win-win!  Win! 

And to all a good night.

0 thoughts on “Dr. Crazy writes a letter. . .

  1. It has been my experience that the bad colleagues who get away with such things are the ones who offer no explanation at all. They simply say, “It’s not possible for my schedule to change.” Nobody ever seems to fight it. Maybe Dr. Crazy should follow their lead and simply say, “No.”


  2. Well, in some depts I’ve only heard about and may or may not bear any resemblance to mine, the scheduler is one of the admin folks, and the decisions are based solely on one criteria (the criteria that runs the place as far as I can tell): seniority. So who cares if you’re a single mother with small children, or you’re forced to commute many hours because your partner can’t get a job there, or you’re the one teaching the most thankless courses/ on a gazillion committees. Your needs are only ‘met’ last. And they double-dog dare their junior faculty to make a fuss about it.


  3. The problem with the scheduling person is that this person is selected by the chair (i.e., you can’t volunteer and it’s not an elected position) so even if I wanted to take it on (which I do not), i wouldn’t be eligible.

    While I didn’t write *exactly* what I wrote in the blog post, yeah, it was pretty close. (Note: people’s schedules in my department get accommodated for personal reasons all the time – kids, spouses, a nasty attitude, whatever – and there’s no penalty when those people shirk on service. I’ve been fighting the good fight to make schedule and service linked, because we’re at a crisis point in the department where essential service just isn’t getting done, while at the same time the majority of the people want accommodation for their personal needs, which, at the end of the day, is really making for some messed up things in my workplace.)

    Anyway, whatever. Either the scheduling person will get a clue, or the problems that will result will be much bigger than they would be if they just gave me what I need, schedule-wise. Either way, my workload will adjust according to the schedule that I am given.


  4. I once pissed somebody off and found myself teaching at 07:45 the next term. This change in my usual schedule propagated forward because somebody else moved into my nice 10:00 slot. While I managed to wiggle it down to 08:00, the legacy effect remains. Note to self and all that.


  5. Good for you, Dr. Crazy! I also refuse to be on campus more than two days a week. During my job interview process, I made it very clear that my research was my absolute priority. And I keep reiterating it ever since I was hired. So now nobody can say they didn’t know about my need for a lot of free time well in advance.


  6. Clarissa – see, this is the thing, though: I’m regularly on campus 4-5 days a week even with my 3-day a week teaching schedule. My point isn’t that I won’t come in for a one-time meeting, or something like that. My point is that I refuse to be *scheduled* in such a way that I am given a horrendous schedule that actually gets in the way of my work while others – who aren’t pulling their service weight or scholarship weight – are not. The fact of the matter is, if they wanted to give me a 5-day-a-week teaching schedule but I’d be done every day by noon and I wouldn’t have any service obligations I’d take it in a heartbeat. But nobody wants me to give up on service 🙂


  7. Dr. Crazy – it is ridiculous that schedules & service are not linked at your school. It seems obvious to me that the people who pick up thankless service courses (ie, whatever no one wants to teach – large courses, evening courses, online courses, etc) and committee work (for this I must make the caveat of service work that does not already come with its own course release, because that’s the reward there) should have priority in scheduling. And also people with really pressing personal issues. But not all personal issues are created equal – I have a lot more limitations as a single mother with two very small children than my colleagues with partners and elementary-school aged children, for example, and someone caregiving a critically ill family member might have even more limitations. It doesn’t need to devolve into a “my pain is worse than your pain” fight if every one approached the situation with collegiality and a sense of fairness & integrity. It sounds like your dept colleagues are more than happy to shuffle all the burden onto you.

    @Clarissa: I hear what you’re saying, but everyone at my school wants a 2 day schedule, and not everyone can have it. Those MWF classes have to be filled, and if everyone insists that their research program is the most important, then someone (ie the most vulnerable person) might get shafted.


  8. Perpetua: See, the elegant solution to all of this would be to come up with a policy on who gets scheduling priority and to have the department vote on it. To my mind, it would go something like this:

    1) Junior faculty. (Because how the heck are they going to get tenure if they are abused?)
    2) People doing major university-wide service that does not come with course releases. (In part to entice people to take on such service)
    3) People with serious personal scheduling issues.
    4) Seniority.

    It’s really not that complicated. I think the issue is that there are a good number of people who don’t want scheduling regularized and who like that the schedule happens through a combination of bullying and flying under the radar because they benefit from that. And I think that the person who does the schedule would rather avoid conflict than advocate for fairness.

    It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out.


  9. *coughs loudly* What they hell is a two-day a week schedule? How do you get one of those? On my campus, even if one only teaches TTh, meetings are always MWF.

    And on some campuses, including mine, (usually senior) faculty refusal to teach other than their preferred schedule means junior people get stuck with shitty schedules. More importantly in my book faculty who insist on such schedules are not thinking of the students (who often can’t come to TTh classes because they are working) and certainly not thinking about who is picking up the slack of teaching the MWF schedules all the damned time. What about their research?

    The simple fact on most campuses is that there are X number of rooms. Faculty generally prefer the TTh schedule because it gives them more prep and research time, and they prefer to teach 9-3. Not everybody can do that, and often this means that students are stuck having to choose between courses they actually need, or that come courses are oversubscribed while others undersubscribed (honestly, I swear two of my colleagues regularly schedule courses across from really popular courses just so their classes don’t fill and they get more research time!

    And even when one isn’t teaching more than two days a week, the idea that one might be unavailable the other days? Again, nice way to expect colleagues will pick up the slack and subsidize someone else’s research agenda with their time. Say I teach three days a week, and my “I am only on campus two days a week” colleague says they just can’t come in for a meeting (and this has happened to me) — all of a sudden, I have to accommodate them by giving up one of my two prep/library days, when I’m starting off at a deficit in the first place because I’ve also taken on the less popular schedule, because someone has to offer classes at times the students need them…




  10. “@Clarissa: I hear what you’re saying, but everyone at my school wants a 2 day schedule, and not everyone can have it. Those MWF classes have to be filled, and if everyone insists that their research program is the most important, then someone (ie the most vulnerable person) might get shafted.”

    -Your colleagues must be really different from mine. 🙂 Mine are happy to stay on campus all day every day, and good for them. I barely managed to convince them (we are a small department) not to have faculty meetings during the Christmas break.


  11. @ Dr. Crazy – I complete agree with you.

    @ADM: I hear you. I have had a similar experience (in terms of the seniority problem). I used to teach MWF 9 AM, all the time, without fail, and I didn’t mind for a variety of reasons. There’s something nice about the rhythm of a MWF. And the student issue is real. The student issue makes me feel guilty for my deep, unrelenting hatred of late afternoon/evening classes.

    I was contemplating making a huge stink about the schedule that was handed to me for next year, because it was really not okay, but then something changed and it’s okay now. But the “something” wasn’t somebody caring, or realizing there was an issue, or listening to my concerns. It was just an accident.


  12. The fact that no one in a bureaucracy cares about “your needs” is not an “issue” to be “realized”. It is a fundamental fact about all bureaucracies–academic and otherwise–that must be embraced. In order to get what you want from someone, you must convince them that it is in *their* interest and will serve *their* needs to give you what you want. The minute you adopt the frame of “my needs”, you are fucked.


  13. It has been my experience that the bad colleagues who get away with such things are the ones who offer no explanation at all. They simply say, “It’s not possible for my schedule to change.”

    Oh, yeah, I totally agree with this. And it’s not just bad colleagues; it’s good colleagues too, who want to control their own schedules. The minute you give a reason for not being able to conform with someone else’s desires, you invite a discussion of whether your reason is “legitimate” or whose reason “outweighs” someone else’s. If you simply state that you are “unable” to conform with stated desires, there is no further discussion. And if someone asks why you aren’t able to, then they are the one that looks like an asshole, and you can just raise your eyebrows dismissively and reiterate that you are “unable” to conform.


  14. @Dr. Crazy: I agree with your point about creating a list of scheduling priorities, and I would have *loved* one favoring junior faculty before I got tenured. In point of fact, though, I would simply be satisfied with some clear explanation of our priorities (even if they don’t follow my wishes).

    I have for a few years now “taken one for the team” and had MWF classes that end past 5pm. (I appear to get the same priority teaching times as our adjunct faculty.) The explanations shifted pretty regularly. Other people needed better times because they commuted (while I commuted a longer distance). I was told my classes didn’t get high enough enrollments to justify a better time–though I got better enrollments than some of my colleagues with better times. (Moreover, that was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy–try raising enrollments when your classes run into Friday evening.) When I asked the faculty member who had been scheduling my classes (and giving me these answers) to explain the process, I was informed that s/he was in fact not in charge of scheduling and that I would have to talk to someone else.

    I actually assumed that seniority was likely the issue (though I knew that other, less senior people were getting better times), until one of my colleagues told me, with a look of incredulity, that there was a pretty good chance that I was lower on the priority list because I wasn’t a parent. (Specifically, because I wasn’t a mother.) She thought I had figured that out already.

    I was stunned, because–call me naive–it had *never* occurred to me that this was going on. After all–it was never discussed. That could be an incorrect assumption, of course. But, you know, I might have appreciated a little openness.


  15. The common element at play in all of these horror stories is the opacity of the process. If you don’t know what all the issues are on the table, it’s easy for the load to be shifted unfairly on some people.

    In my department, we’re struggling with a new scheduling paradigm. No more MWF classes. Now all courses are 2x week (80 minute slots) and they’re matched up in weird ways to fill in 5 days a week. This year, for example, my western civ students meet Monday & Thursday. But they’re more fortunate than some who are matched up not only on weird combinations of day, but at different times on different days!

    Still, at least we have some element of control at the department level. Within the maddening constraints imposed by the administration (use all the timeslots, including 8 evening blocks, before you can repeat in any), our admin assistant and chair struggle to make it all work. Add in extra-difficulty factors for trying to make it possible for double majors in popular pairings to keep to their programs (so we consult with English, Geography, French, etc.) and it’s hard.

    But never so hard that faculty should be kept in the dark and fed bullshit by schedulers who’re afraid of confronting the troublemakers or laying matters out for everyone to see. (Our process is transparent. I can consult with the admin assistant or chair at any time in the process, correct problems before they start. So can any other faculty member.)


  16. FWIW, I don’t think the “just say no” approach works terribly well a) outside of an R1 environment and b) for women. While I get CPP’s point about GP’s point about not offering reasons, I can only say that in my experience just saying no without a reason doesn’t get people what they want in my department AND it gives those people who try it a reputation for being uncollegial. And both of those results are multiplied for women who try it.

    As for bureaucracies not caring about people’s needs, well, no, they don’t. But – and this is an important but – when the needs are about serving the bureaucracy, they should. In other words, I don’t expect the bureaucracy to care about my childcare needs, for example. I DO expect the bureaucracy to care about me being able to do one of the parts of my job that is listed in my contract, in which case, yes, my needs *should* be more important than avoiding conflict. Because, ultimately, my needs ARE – in a completely direct way – the bureaucracy’s needs. When one gets the sense that the agent of the bureaucracy doesn’t even care about the institution or the bureaucracy itself? What can a person even *do* with that?

    (Note: my comment about needs that H. quoted was responding to someone’s question about needs. I didn’t frame my response about my schedule in terms of my needs. Rather, I just explained that if people want me to do the committee work, then I will get a schedule on the days on which those committees meet. My needs didn’t actually enter into anything I said. I just gave those in charge a choice: you give me the schedule that works for the committees, or you don’t. If you don’t, then start trying to find somebody else to do the committee work.)


  17. I think your analysis is right on here, Dr. Crazy. Just saying “no” without explanation is something that might not wash either from women or in an R1 environment.

    As for the “dreaded” MWF schedule: I enjoyed a T-Th schedule for most of my career until a few years ago, when I decided to pay my department back and signed up for all MWF classes. That’s been my schedule for the past 2-1/2 years, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Students don’t get as wiggly in 50-minute classes as they do in 75-minute classes. And the fact is that by the time you’re promoted to Associate Professor, you’re on campus 3 days a week anyway for various meetings and other obligations, and I’ve found that it’s easier to get people to schedule meetings on a MWF basis than on a T-Th. (That is, it seems more reasonable to ask for a meeting on one of three days rather than on one of only two days in the week.) So, my days for working at home are oddly more protected on a MWF schedule.

    Oddly enough, I was asked a few months ago to shift my schedule next term to a T-Th to accomodate my teaching requests! So, I’m back on a T-Th for the next year. Poor me!


  18. The worst schedule I ever got was when I was a thankless VAP with a 4/4. I was the mule. 8 am class and an 8 pm class, on the same day. Followed by another 8 am class the next morning.

    The evening class? It ended at 9.45 pm. After taking three trains (one of which went through Ground Zero) and walking several blocks, I got home at 11.30 pm. And then I had to LEAVE the next morning by 6.30.

    They got mad the following semester when they tried to overload me to 5 classes and I simply said, no.

    This was also the place that regularly allowed students who worked 40+ hours/week to overload their own schedules and take 6-7 courses/semester. Because whether the students got an F or not, the university got tuition!

    And, may I also add, the place did NOT provide library access to JSTOR. Or ProjectMUSE. Or the OED. Or had any real books in the first place.

    I was never so happy as when I left.


  19. I DO expect the bureaucracy to care about me being able to do one of the parts of my job that is listed in my contract, in which case, yes, my needs *should* be more important than avoiding conflict.

    Absolutely. The key is in the framing (sorry, I know that word suckes asse). Effective framing is “If you make this decision, this bad outcome will ensue, while if you make this other decision, this good outcome will ensue.” Bad framing is “I need to do X and Y as part of my jobbe, and if you make this decision, one of my needs will go unfulfilled, while if you make this other decision, then both my needs can be fulfilled.” While these are logically the same thinge, bureaucrats are conditioned to stoppe listening when they realize they are in the “needs” frame but keep listening when they are in the “consequences” frame.


  20. I totally agree with Historiann about a MWF schedule — 50 minute classes that meet more frequently work much, much better for my teaching style and for classroom dynamics. My TR classes often seem to just kind of forget about what we’ve been doing, who their classmates are, the professor’s name, and the topic of the class itself over the five-day break between Thursday and Tuesday. Unfortunately, MWF classes are basically dead on my campus because undergrads simply refuse to take them, and seat targets rule all, so we get totally screwed if we try to offer them. We now have almost entirely MW and TR classes for undergrads, with the Friday scheduling slots taken up by special once-a-week classes for working students or executive MBA and other grad classes aimed at professionals.

    Despite the horror stories here (and in no way intending to minimize them), I actually have some sympathy for schedulers, having just gone through my first round of duties creating our grad schedule. Even with only 25ish classes and a single format (nights, once a week on M, T, W, or R) it’s difficult to balance faculty preferences and needs (and to know what’s a preference vs. a need) and and to be sure the right classes are offered in the right sequence in the right semesters on the right nights in the right balance so that they will: 1) enroll enough students; 2) not conflict topically with other classes on the same nights; and 3) allow our students to take the classes they need to complete the program in a timely manner, in whatever geographic or methodological focus they choose (we recently had an incident where two required classes were offered at the same time, and several students had been planning to take both to finish their coursework). I can only imagine the difficulties at work in the much bigger and more complicated undergrad phase of operations.


  21. JJO–my uni has a proposal circulating to make all of our classes MW or TR as a fuel- and timesaving measure. A lot of entire departments and schools are already on this scheme–it’s mostly Liberal Arts that clings to the traditional MWF/TR divide. At this point, I’m agnostic: my quality of life or job satisfaction doesn’t depend on whether I’m on a MWF or a TR.

    (That was kind of a nice discovery of my shift to the MWF scheme.)


  22. Heh. No F classes would never fly here. They call it “underutilized space” when you don’t program your rooms 100% or fill all the seats. Never mind that it might not be pedagogically sound to fill all the seats available for a particular class, it is still revenue lost in the eyes of a financial officer.


  23. When you teach on a 4/4 template MWF is a nightmare; not that TR is any kind of a walk in the park either. And when the spanish dubloon or temporal coin of the realm is the 60-minute “contact” hour–not the standard-issue “psychiatric” hour of 50 minutes–it’s brainicide for all involved. The classes then are 60 or 90 minutes, not 50 or 75. A few years back our administration proposed rejoining the rest of the world temporally, and wow, did that just snap it. The union said whoah, wait a minute here… The scientists said “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Shorter Classes Has Gotta Go.” Even among the humanists there was a limited degree of “Ho Ho, Hey, Hey, Longer Classes, Same Pay.” Finally, an electoral coalition of the (un)willing emerged in the rank and file and us
    working stiffs “lost” another round: Shorter classes, same pay. It did put more oxygen back in the brain stems, and required a little fat cutting around the edges in yellowing lecture notes. Not to the point of making Friday classes popular with anybody. I think JJO is right, students just don’t want to touch them.


  24. My building is so full on TTh that I had to fight for two years to get my TTh sections in rooms with A/V. That class is a required course for the *entire major*. I’m a fine arts humanist, and my students had to scrunch around a laptop for two years to complete their work in section. That class will also be on MWF for ever and ever, for similar scheduling reasons.

    There are many good things about MWF: service is on MWF. You get to cancel more classes for conferences and travel (not really kidding). This is how TTh is decided in my department:

    1. Seniority
    2. How important your classes are to the college majors (the more important they are to the major the *less* likely it is that you can get a TTh schedule.)
    3. Service duties, except most faculty with large service duties prefer MWF schedules.
    4. Other obligations except in the case of #1. (Other obligations that I know of are: pet care, children, caring for a disabled spouse, and a commute of 60 miles.)

    We don’t have any classes other than grad classes after 6pm.


  25. I guess I’m lucky that it seems like enough people in my department prefer MWF to TR schedules–that, or the strong TR preference people accept the need to pick up MWF classes.

    Indyanna, your 60 or 90 minute classes are just too much! But it seems like they’re ripe for guerrilla-action–just let the students go 10 minutes “early.” I tend to run out the clock most days, but then I hear that other faculty have no problem releasing students early if you’ve covered the material you wanted to cover with them.

    Wini’s comment about commutes strikes home–I’ve had long commutes my whole TT professional life. I’ve used it in pleading for a TR schedule in the past, but I’ve also been fully willing to suck it up if I didn’t get the schedule I wanted. After all, where I live is a choice, not an imperative. My husband and I decided that it was more important for him to be 1 block from the Potterville hospital and not have to drive 20-25 minutes in the middle of the night when called in for a rescussitation or emergency. I just feel lucky to live with my spouse and have a TT job.


  26. Sorry to miss this discussion. Our registrar has asked that no more than 40% of classes be on TR (for the reasons that Truffula noted — our ability to get new buildings depends on our usage of space M-F, 7:30 AM to 9 PM. State rules.) When this came up, the person who commutes 2 hours and wants to come in 2 days a week was up in arms. But I think for lower division classes, MWF is better than TR. On the other hand, 50 minute classes for upper division seminar type classes makes no sense. So the Dean is facing a revolt of the faculty, all high minded about pedagogy, but also saying that if we’re supposed to do research, we need a two day schedule. With meetings, this semester I’ve had a 4-5 day schedule.

    It’s actually been depressing, because everyone is thinking about their own comfort.


  27. This discussion has been most interesting – it never would have occurred to me NOT to be at Uni Mon-Fri, 9-5 (at the very least). Here in Australia that is certainly the expectation, though most people tend to take a day off during the week as a “research day” to work from home without a problem. Not sure about how scheduling actually works though. In Germany, I think there is also quite the expectation of being at your desk, but the university culture is such that no student would dare to just knock on a Professor’s door to ask something or other. Since swapping to a bachelor course system, course scheduling has become a major nightmare as all sorts of courses have to be coordinated around students various combinations of majors and minors. And classes only meet once a week for 90-minutes – I cannot imagine how this would work with classes that meet 3 times a week…


  28. Pingback: The Radical History News: Shopping, Nixonland, Feminist Blogging and A Farewell - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education

  29. I agree with cultureclash – the problem in the US is that the VAST majority of professors – and full-time non-tenured instructors – want their off days so they literally can either work a full day in the lab or take the day off.

    I am in the situation where one of five professors has refused to teach at night at all, two “don’t prefer it” and two, including myself, feel that the burden should be shared. Four night courses over the year, with five people available, and only two professors are teaching them. This year, I taught two already, and they are trying to make me teach a third (three of the four night classes for one person of five available). I am refusing.

    As for scheduling, no professor does the scheduling in my department, it all goes to the administrative assistant who compiles professors needs/wants. But that administrative assistant is bullied by certain parties, who always get what they want.

    Things are changing right now, or someone else *will* teach that night class because unemployment is a better alternative to ruining my life.


  30. Oh, and another thing – night courses do NOT get teaching assistants and do NOT get grading help. We also get less hours to teach, stressing out both the professor and the students, because exams are during class instead of outside of class.

    Everybody can’t have what they want. My long-term solution is NO in-person night classes, and only online courses for those working full-time.


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