scheduling and demonstrating accountability
It’s that time of year, when students and faculty alike sport long faces about the end-of-year crunch of deadlines. Unfortunately, in academia, the lists of to-dos never disappear, as new requests and calls for responsibilities sprout constantly like dandelions after a spring rain. One round-the-year task is planning, particularly for courses to ensure that major areas, student needs’ and/or faculty’s interests are covered.
Stanford magazine recently featured a tongue-in-check illustration of student schedules to go along with a professor’s reflection upon administrative demands for accountability:
Prof. Appelbaum recounts a previous employer’s (Mississippi State University) attempts to get him to publicly account for every moment of his time within a 8am-5pm block:
I taught at Mississippi State University for three years before joining the Stanford faculty in 2000. I found MSU to be an organization dedicated to intercollegiate athletics, but sometimes less inspired when it came to academic and scholarly attainment. One of the things that irked me was the idea that you had to account for your time but not your achievement.
At the start of each semester we found blank schedules tacked to cork bulletin boards on our office doors. I filled mine out on my first day. I had an enormous course load, abundant office hours, copious committee meetings, rehearsals, a bevy of independent studies and a weekly faculty meeting. The generic sheet only accommodated Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. even though, as music professors, we had ensemble rehearsals in the evenings and on weekends, not to mention concerts by our students almost every night of the week. I figured that people understood that we were working more than 60 hours a week, so surely we wouldn’t need to account for every minute of our time.
Upon completion, my schedule looked very thick to me—and this was without any reference to time for composing music, recording CDs, writing articles, designing and constructing new instruments, practicing the piano, writing grants, attending professional conferences, giving guest lectures and all the other enterprises that characterize my research. It didn’t account for course design, class preparation or grading. It made no mention of the student electronic music studio I maintained. So, naïvely, I sat back with a feeling that this schedule conveyed that I was fully committed to my new job.
But my department chair immediately informed me that I must complete my schedule—there couldn’t be any empty spaces left on my sheet. I thought he was joking. With a look of compassionate embarrassment, a “welcome to Mississippi State University” glance, he apologized. Still, he insisted I fill in every blank lest the dean wander down the hall and see that someone had free time.
Shocked, and a bit miffed, I put “lunch” down from noon to 1 as I was told to do. (In Mississippi, everyone eats from noon to 1; if you enter a restaurant at 1:05 you can have your pick of any table.) Even so, I still had four empty spaces: 90 minutes on Monday, an hour on Tuesday, an hour on Thursday and a three-hour block on Friday. I filled them in as follows: Barry Manilow Research Project; Office Nap; Eating Bugs; and, for the three-hour block, Stapling.
My chair never asked me to “complete” my schedule again.