Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thank you to the Good Samaritan who has been taking out and bringing in my trash cans before I’m home from work. I appreciate it.

This week I have been working late sitting in on the courses which meet in the evenings and have advising sessions with my students who work during the day and who are trying to complete a master’s program at night. It’s also that time of year when I review thesis drafts. With the inevitable few whose drafts are a mess or who have yet to even turn in a first draft, I must strike that fine balance of tough love to get them in gear while also talking them down off the ledge and keeping them motivated that they can still finish in a credible way and graduate this semester. Most of the faculty and senior staff I work with know what’s been going on with me, but the students don’t know, which is appropriate so I am listening to their problems and not them feeling that they should be asking me about mine.

It’s also that time of year to recruit high school students for the summer programs I oversee. I wasn’t able to work at any of the February recruiting events but at least I’m able to staff our big “Come to Campus Day” this Saturday morning. And the real “fun” right now is getting the budget approved and determining the teaching schedule for the next academic year.

These are the main “seasonal” crunches on top of the usual fray. But my real time crunch is a function of a whole new set of responsibilities that came my way this summer, right before I was diagnosed with WM. The university accreditation process has grown into demanding its own complex, data-driven machinery. We have to be able to document that we’re teaching what we say we’re teaching, that students are learning what we say they should be learning, and that we know how we’re going to improve both processes. I became the point person for the review of all undergraduate academic programs in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences over a ten-year cycle, because – you’ll laugh – I’m considered the organized, efficient associate dean who can get cantankerous people to (usually) cooperate.

What’s made the work load truly laughable is that when one of us four academic associate deans left for another position a couple of months ago, the powers that be opted not to replace that position, and even more new work came my way. This and they cut my one administrative support position from full-time to half-time last June. I was asked what my raise is for taking on all this new work and what my new title is to reflect this increased scope of responsibility. Ha! See, I’m laughing.

That’s okay, because I figure the more that’s in my “decanal portfolio,” university-admin-speak for “what’s on my plate,” the better the job security. Associate deans are the top of the civil servant pile; although we all serve at will, usually new deans keep the worker bees like me in place because we’re the ones who deal with the nitty-gritty that they don’t want to know about. President Sample was famous for sending complaint letters addressed to him down the chain with his ¼-sheet slips of green paper attached on which he scrawled, “Please handle.” Those green slips would end up with staff like me. At least I tell myself that it better be worth the job security and the USC health insurance.

Since I hadn’t heard from my USC doctor for a few weeks, I was letting the “sleeping chemo dog” lie. No further treatment has been scheduled because she hasn’t paid attention to me, not because there was some determination that I didn’t need any further chemo. But then my “peeps” starting asking questions such as whether they could book me for appointments on Fridays again, whether they should get me refundable plane and hotel reservations for an upcoming conference – you know, questions that presume I know what my life is going to be like. I broke down and emailed her, and true to form, she thinks I need to continue with treatment, but is contacting the Dana-Farber doc as she promised to do to see what he thinks. So we’ll see and in the meantime, I’m going to catch up with as much as I can for as long as I can, be glad to let my veins recuperate, and hope my taste buds come back soon.

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