UPDATED BELOW, Sunday afternoon.
Who do college and university faculty work for? Do we work for our students? Do we work for the administrators at our institutions? If we work at public universities, do we work for the taxpayers of our states? Do we work for our colleagues? Who has a right to demand work from us?
The reason I’m asking is that last week ended for me in a faculty meeting yesterday afternoon that was billed as “important” by our department chair, because we were going to learn all about some new software that would “make it easy” to generate our CVs and our annual reports. (I bet some of you know where this is going.)
This fabulous new system is called Digital Measures, and as it’s being implemented at Baa Ram U., it relies on faculty to dis-aggregate the information we have on our CVs and in our annual evaluations and enter it into 300 or more little boxes organized into 15 or 20 different categories. (And believe me, the web page looks just as inviting as that chore sounds.) Each little box must be clicked on separately and have information typed or cut-and-pasted into it. Seriously!
That’s right: we were invited to a meeting in which we were asked to duplicate work we’ve already done to report on the work we do. I almost felt a little sorry for the consultant they sent up to serve us this $h!t sandwich. She seemed kind of surprised to hear that we didn’t see why we should donate free labor without any benefit to us or our students. (Also not selling us on the product: she told us she was only around until May. Until May! Now that’s a real commitment on the part of the central administration.)
I’m sure like me you can see the advantage of this system for administrators. “Let’s see which colleges and departments are publishing more articles? I’ll just push this button and generate this cross-tab, and voilá!” (In fact, we were told by a colleague in the know that the reason Baa Ram U. bought this garbageware is because the president of our institution didn’t know how many articles each department had published in a given year.)
But what exactly is the value of this system for faculty? I can see none. It all seems like a massive timewasting exercise, one moreover designed to disadvantage anyone working in the humanities or other book-intensive disciplines.
Of course History, Philosophy, and English departments (among others in the visual and performing arts as well as humanities) will look less productive than economists and scientists! We write single-author articles of 25-40 pages that are often based on archives outside of the country and which use information written in languages other than English. We don’t have graduate students or postdocs to do our research for us. We don’t write articles with 10-15 supposed “co-authors.” Also, we write books for the most part, not articles.
Silver lining? There’s nothing like stupid from the central administration to bring a faculty together. I told my colleagues that I have a rule when it comes to any technology or software: it works for me, I don’t work for it. End of story.
I already spend a few hours of year writing up everything I did last year, gathering together my student evaluations, and printing up copies of everything that was published. (That’s irritating enough, given how crummy our raises are.) I’ve already given them everything they need to know by using a 35-year old technology called Microsoft Word, and I don’t even need an internet connection to do that!
If the president of the university wants a database for the generation of faculty data, he’s free to create a few more jobs for the local economy and hire someone to take every faculty CV and annual report apart and click on a million little boxes. But he is not free to draft on faculty labor to get it done.
Are any of you (unfortunately!) familiar with this kind of software? Are you compelled to use it? How is it being used out there? Fill me in! (You only have to click once on the comment form below, and once again to submit your comment! See how easy it is?)
UPDATE, Sunday afternoon: The CEO of Digital Measures has tried to leave the same 1,064 word comment in the comments below twice, but they’ve both been caught by my spam filter. HA-haha. Leaving 1,064 word comments on a blog post of only 712 words is the opposite of “listening” and trying to engage your “clients.” This is not a space owned or controlled by my employer, and I don’t give anyone free advertising or a platform on my personal blog.