Posts Tagged ‘New Faculty’

When faculty members arrive on a new campus, they are often told to keep their heads down and listen more than they speak. In most cases (i.e., when the place you find yourself in is not blatantly offensive), I think that this is good advice, since it makes sense to become familiar with the campus and departmental cultures before saying or doing things that might deviate from the norms of those cultures. Although I may never feel comfortable speaking at a faculty meeting (for those of you at large institutions, this is the monthly meeting of all faculty, along with various administrators, on campus), since I never did at my previous institution, I have found this semester that I am saying more at department meetings and feeling less apprehensive when I do. I don’t think I noticed that I had felt less comfortable last year until I started feeling more comfortable this year.

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Like some faculty members (and probably more than many others), I have a tendency to be picky (or, as I prefer to think of myself, “detail-oriented”). I care about the way that things look and the way they are presented and I like things to be done right the first time. This is true of my own work as well as things like student assignments (is there a shortage of staples in the world?). When changing institutions, it turns out, there are a lot of details and a lot of details for people to get wrong. As a result, I’ve been concerned recently that pickiness would be perceived as being a pain in the ass, especially in the months leading up to the start of the academic year.

This started early in the summer as I selected my office furniture (and its placement). The person who was in charge of ordering everything remarked on my slightly unusual placement preference for my bookshelves by saying that “hopefully they’ll install them in the right places and if they don’t… it will be okay.” I also felt picky when discussing my computer and its software, since some software that I needed had more functionality in Windows but I wanted a Mac with Windows running in Parallels for the purposes of using this software. If making these purchases for myself I wouldn’t have been concerned but I wondered how ridiculous these requests looked to the IT people who ordered everything and got it set up.

Things continued when I arrived on campus and went through the steps necessary to acquire office keys, an ID, and business cards. There was a delay in getting an office key (which turned out only to be a day or so) and the ID camera wasn’t working when I went to have my picture taken (is there anything with a higher failure rate than ID cameras?). Worst was my order for business cards. On the first proof the administrative assistant sent me, my rank was incorrect (not that I would mind being a full professor) but after that was corrected I noticed that the second proof omitted my middle initial, which I use professionally (this was omitted on the first proof, too, but I was too concerned about the rank to notice). Each change probably took somebody five seconds, but I could feel my reputation as a pain in the ass growing.

Since the beginning of the semester, things have settled down considerably. I don’t think that I have made any egregious requests and I’ve actually found myself struggling to get used to allowing the department’s administrative assistant and student assistants do things for me since my previous administrative assistant was also burdened with the work of five other departments on campus. On the other hand, I did just hand back the first round of papers for a class, so instead of going away, the perception that I’m a pain in the ass has probably just shifted from staff members to students. Where it belongs.

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In the past, I talked about my desire to dig into life at my current institution rather than seeing this as a stopping point on my way to a job with similar pay but higher prestige.  While there have been some disappointments on the social side of things, my willingness to turn up at all sorts of campus functions appears to be helping with recognition among my colleagues.  This recognition has resulted in invitations to serve on committees and panels that will likely further increase my visibility on campus.  The downside, of course, is that I feel compelled to serve on these things, but since I need to serve on something I may as well serve on things that are visible to the faculty and administration.  Of course, I’m not the only new faculty member who has made regular appearances (there is one faculty member in particular who seems to be at everything that I am – I am pretty sure that we will end up running the school if we keep showing up at things), but it is nice to know that people outside of my department are starting to know who I am.

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For the first time since early January, somebody has paid me.  I am glad that the summer without pay is finally over.  The most interesting thing is that the taxes withheld from my current paycheck are about 90% of my take-home pay as a graduate student.

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