Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tell me: what is service?

Things are going pretty well here in The Hot Place, as long as you ignore the fact that I am super behind in grading everything and have gone into denial and just simply stopped doing work today. And that I am counting down the hours until spring break. Really, I think I am at a normal level of tiredness for the semester, and I am in a good mood overall, so it seems to be standard levels of stress.

Anyway, one of the things I like about this place is that I have been protected from service this first year, which is very very nice, especially since I have been spending all my time figuring out where on campus I get food and how to set up lib sessions and all that good stuff.

Also: book orders! Crap! (Do I switch out my texts or not next fall? Decisions! Expect another post soon. Why are they due so early anyway? Argh. Ok. To return:)

So at my tenure review meeting (where they said they were happy with what I have been doing and were glad to recommend me for another year, yay!), they mentioned I should start thinking about what committees I should get on for service next year. I am still so fuzzy on what they do and how many are required per year and all that stuff.

Also, this place is The Land of the Acronym (TLotA --- I think it is Nahuatl). We have our fair share of bureaucraticisms (though not PIE) and the accreditation report we just got back is studded with them, so a major side project of mine has been to figure them out and learn them. I am doing a terrible job remembering them from one occurrence to the next. People start talking about the committees and all their various acronyms and my head starts swimming.

So, when they said to figure out about committee work my heart kinda sank. The good news is that, since this is a community college, I don't have to do any research at all. I say good news, because I don't have the time or energy to do that, for sure. But it is also a little sad because I love doing research and I think I would like that better than doing service. Alas.

My observing committee is a snarky and sarcastic one. I don't know all these people all that well, but they seem like good people. When they mentioned committee work ("but not X committee ---- we already have 4 English department people on that committee and we don't need that level of coverage"), someone immediately said, "OOh, yeah, Y committee, put her on that. THAT would be fun. Not." (I immediately committed to memory that committee name and vowed to never go near it.) "What about Z committee; that one never meets any more; less work," another person piped up. Everyone laughed for each comment. "What about the Committee to Decide the Fate of the Dead Historic Tree?" asked yet another person. "That is temporary, small, short-term, and a good task to get one's feet wet." We immediately became side-tracked by trees and it turned out that the decision has pretty much been made (and they rejected out of hand both my suggestion to replace it with a coffee bar and a taco truck (I got votes from first, sarcastic colleague though) and I believe it is going to be part of an art contest with the students. Alas, no carnitas for us.)

Finally we got back on topic. "Didn't the nomination period for at large reps just close? That would be a good starting committee, and would mean she didn't have to write reports."

So I am putting my name in for that committee, and worrying and wondering about how many other committees I have to be on and when I will learn what those requirements are. Any advice is appreciated!  I know that starting next year I have to help do class observations of the adjuncts; we have a lot of them. Sigh. Guilt. Awkward. That will be fun. Not.

Stay tuned and watch me dither about while planning my book orders for fall, and hear about the other part of my job I was hired for but have not actually begun yet, the Special Project In Training. Except for the minor part where I am not trained licensed or experienced with SPIT in any way. This should be --- interesting. Possibly in that slow-motion car wreck sort of way.


Susan said...

We would expect an un tenured person to be a member of only one committee at a time. And we'd expect you to be a good member (come to meetings, pitch in as needed) but not to take on leadership.

As for acronyms, they are the scourge: try to learn not what the acronym stands for, but what it does. So, if there is a curriculum committee, remember what strange initials go there. In general, committees follow functions - curriculum, policy, budget, etc. so the names gradually make sense.

Monica said...

Also, over time, make sure that you step up to committees that really contribute to the college AND help you learn things that will make you able to take on leadership roles. Too many people don't think strategically about service placements, and when it comes time for tenure, they get questions about not having done enough/the right kind. At least at places that really value it, which CCs do. I would also suggest finding out about club advising, which is a great way to do service and connect with students who like what you like.

Bardiac said...

We also give first year tt folks a year without committee or advising expectations.

In the second year, we want to see these people step up to a department committee, or two (area of study committee being the second for some).

After that, we want to see people start looking for college or other committees, too, though not all at once.

As Susan said, we expect people to be active and involved, but not leading for the first couple of years.

Personally, I think serving on a committee that does something valued by department (or college) members is good. In my department, the scheduling committee is really good: it accomplishes something, and everyone values the committee. That would be in line with Monica's suggestion.

There may be unstated gendered expectations; we tend to expect more of women than men in service, and to give men more credit for doing less. /sigh

Fretful Porpentine said...

Committees are easy until all of a sudden they're not. You just keep your mouth shut for the first few meetings, and listen until you figure out what's going on, and don't volunteer for anything involving assessment.

Then you discover some things that are being done badly and would be much, much better if you were doing them, and then you become Seized With A Burning Passion to fix them, and then you start volunteering like crazy to do all kinds of shit, and that way madness lies.

Yeah. Don't volunteer for anything. Especially if it involves assessment.

Belle said...

How about a committee that deals with the library? Academics tend to value libraries; my stint on that committee (and the bastards made me chair of it) was the easiest I ever had. Stay away from enrollment/retention and assessment.