David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The Week That Was

February 13, 2020

Back in 2012 when I committed to blog daily via the Higher Education Administrator Diaries (HEAD) series, I figured initially that it might be a good way to share how everyday is truly unique for at least a vice-president of instruction. Over the course of that Fall semester, I supposed I proved it; however, by focusing each day on one specific topic, I believe I missed the chance to expose just how much whiplash, stomach ulcer, headache, and other pains said administrator can get in a week.

Take the last 7 work days, for instance.  Over the course of that time, the following conversations or issues have consumed enough of my time as to be significant:

1) The running of a single Tae Kwan Do class. Recognize this is a 1-credit class that would not be required in any student's program.  Apparently I might be introduced to a Grandmaster through all of this. Just telling you up front, if it ain't Grandmaster Flash, I ain't interested.

2) An illiterate grievance filed by a student about an instructor.  O.k., this probably isn't that rare.  Out of whatever respect I can muster, I refuse to provide specific examples of the illiteracy. Let's just say that wrong word usage has led to fish hook imagery.  And I really ain't interested then.

3) A giant beach ball in our art gallery,  actually as art in our art gallery. And it was interactive (guests are encouraged to touch the artwork).  I will admit this was actually pretty cool, until someone bounced the ball and it hit the track of lighting that probably cost several thousand dollars for the gallery's recent renovation. I believe I felt my CFO's blood pressure raise on that one.

4) A conversation with a good friend/faculty member who I can't stop calling "skinny."  He has lost a lot of weight and so we shared our mutual challenges of eating right/not eating right. I learned he has a grandson who brings him a cookie without being asked.  There is hope that some of today's youth are being raised right.

5) A 55-email (and this is a conservative estimate) exchange dating back five weeks finally had its issue resolved today . . . kind of and not permanently.  It involves something off campus and so email had to be the primary way to communicate. I could throw in a few phone calls too.  All this did was solve a short-term issue; I now need to set up meetings to fix related issues longer-term.

6) If you think that one was bad, on Wednesday I finally pinned down 30 very busy people for a statewide meeting of Community College Chief Academic Officers.  Technically I didn't pin them all down; I got to where I had 17 people who could commit to a day for a meeting. That was more than half; 8 or so had never responded and waiting for them wouldn't have changed that.  For anybody who thinks that "President" of such groups is primarily just a title thing, they clearly have never had to coordinate the meetings.

7) Absences for illness and travel difficulties dominate almost every morning the last week.  I wish I could say that these scenarios involved our students, but it is the faculty.  For the most part, we are having a mild winter, but the impact of occasional snow and all-too-frequent viruses are making it a wild winter.

8) I have been blind copied on so many ridiculous emails about transfer credit that I may gouge my eyes out.  If I have to read one more time that a university's course is 300 level and thus can't possibly equate to our 200 level course, I may have to get a prescription for Xanax.

9) I have done my best to discourage multiple salespeople wanting to offer their products and services to help the college fix everything from our enrollment issues to our electronic storage issues to our procurement issues. Not sure there are any other ways I can say, "we aren't going to be able to do that at this point."  However, the first guy who contacts me to say he has a service that can deal with our annoying sales rep issues has a contract signed in a (grandmaster) flash.

10) Right as I was leaving the office tonight, my administrative assistant took a call from a search firm who wants to see if I, or someone I know, might want to apply for a president's position at another Michigan Community College. "Yeah, right, like that turned out well for me in the past," says the guy serving as interim dean.

11) Back to the weather, all week I have seen beloved colleagues from several institutions ask via social media, in so many words, if it is wrong as higher ed faculty or administrators to wish for a snow day.  It's a fun joke but when we wonder why non-academics have such scorn for academics, this kind of lax attitude toward doing our core job doesn't help.

12) I learned devastating news about someone's health this week. I respect his/her privacy and won't tell anyone, even those who might argue that legally they need to know.  Out of all of these scenarios, this is the one hardest to reconcile personally.

13) The pressing matter of SMC's reaffirmation of accreditation, barely more than a year away, weighs on everything I do everyday.  My emotions have peaks and valleys. Today, I had a peak; at 2:48 AM, I am sure it will valley.

Through all of this, I seem to still be a workaholic. Maybe that says all that is unsaid.