Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Bonanza

In the summer, some faculty spend a lot of time in the department, some come and go, and some disappear for the entire summer. I am in the middle category: I'm here a lot, but then I travel, then I'm here a lot, them I'm away again.

I have written (complained) before about how those of us who are in the department in the summer get asked to do 'volunteer' service work. The university doesn't pay our salaries in the summer, but administrative tasks must be done and someone has to do them. Those someones are the ones who are in their offices and labs in the summer.

But every once in a while, something good (in the administrative sense) happens to those of us who lurk in our offices for at least part of the summer. In fact, something pretty good just happened to me today.

I was sitting at my desk and the Chair walked into my office. I admit that my very first thought was "Oh no, he's going to ask me to do something." But no. In this case, my cynicism was unfounded, though in 99.57% of cases it is not.

The Chair reminded me that last spring I had compiled a list of requests for teaching supplies that various faculty desired. These supplies were all of a related sort that could be ordered from one vendor and that would benefit a variety of classes. I was motivated to compile this list in part out of frustration with the sad state of some teaching materials I was using and also because a new faculty member will soon teach a class that I have taught for many years, and I was feeling bad about handing over to him some ancient somewhat-wrecked supplies. I thought he should have nice new materials for his first experience teaching this class. It occurred to me that other colleagues might also want some similar items, so I made a spreadsheet/wish-list. Alas, the funds for teaching supplies vanished, and we were unable to order anything.

Funds for teaching supplies have reappeared and must be spent this week or the Dean will take the funds away. The Chair was wandering the halls looking for faculty who had made requests last spring, and he found me. The other people who made requests are not here, so he told me to give my list to an accountant and the items will be purchased.

I am feeling very lucky that this happened this week (when I am in my office) instead of last week (when I was far away). My colleagues who are away this week missed out on an opportunity, but I don't feel too anguished about my random luck because the funds that just fell from the sky will benefit many colleagues, not just me, and because the windfall is for teaching materials, not for a new espresso machine for me office (I will have to use grant funds for that*).

* Note to NSF program officers: That was a joke. Really.


Anonymous said...

I would be interested in your thoughts on whether caring about the state of the teaching supplies for the lab course that a new faculty member will be taking over is a female characteristic. As the only FSP in our department for many years ( and now one of two) it always seems to me that the male SPs have a very narrow interest only in whether something is good for THEM. However,last fall I also prepared a spreadsheet for our department chair )to show the Dean) l showing what small equipment we had and what we needed for undergraduate lab courses. My main motivation was to make the teaching experience better/nicer for the new faculty members and for the students. Unfortunately we did not have a similar windfall from the Dean.

Another FSP

Schlupp said...

I could see how an espresso machine might be research support. Of course, you'd have to have one machine for each grant, and only use the awakeness from each machine for working on the respective research.

Female Science Professor said...

anonymous: Perhaps, though my motives were a mixture of altruism and self-interest, so it's hard to say. I also thought that bundling the requests would make the overall request more difficult to turn down.

AsstFemaleProf said...

As a new professor, I think a coffee maker is definitely grant worthy. I purchased mine out of "personal" funds before starting - ie my husband's paycheck since my post-doc had stopped and my faculty position had yet to start. But since having coffee readily available in my office, my productivity has doubled at least. And my mood: definitely improved.

(However, I do realize that in the unlikely event I actually receive funding in the next decade, I will not be able to use it for things like coffee makers or food for my group. Those purchases will continue to come out of pocket.)

Anonymous said...

your coffee comment made me laugh - i'm starting a lab in a few months and fully intend to buy a high end coffee machine even if it comes out of my own pocket (which based on previous post of yours seems to happen.. a lot). My current lab just got one and the amount of time we had all wasted walking to Starbucks was astronomical..
-Happily Caffeinated!

Anonymous said...

One year when I was a grad student, there was an excess of some kind of departmental funding at the end of a fiscal year and the students were asked if there was anything we wanted to buy. We asked for and received a nice big couch, ideal for naps in the middle of the day. I'm sure our productivity went up as a result!

Anonymous said...

If I had a comfy loveseat or small couch in my office, to plop down on, I'd spend even less time at home.

My wife is vetoing that purchase.

Anonymous said...

an expresso is fine. I bought one for our team of faculty from govt funds - actualy monies we get for refereeing proposals - the agency call it an incentive scheme - so that is what we have now the "Referee Incentive Scheme Nespresso"

if any tosser of an admin questions it then they are going to get fucking short shrift...


Anonymous said...

Bundling the requests seems to be a matter of efficiency - a matter which should be within the male domain. Perhaps you've simply managed to rip apart yet another useless societal construct?

As for the espresso machine, go for it. One good deed does deserve another. Make the newbie by the beans and the grinder.