Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Best Laid Plans of Herding Cats

What is the difference between staff and faculty? Staff coordinate; faculty stray. Getting faculty together is like herding cats; staff herd themselves.

I needed four official signatures on a form. My advisor was easy; she happened to be on campus, we had a quick meeting, she signed. The others were two staff and the department chair. I emailed the first staff member, she agreed to sign, I put it in her box. Within two hours, I had the form back with all three needed signatures in place. I didn't have to try to pin down the department chair, I didn't even have to put any effort into finding the other staff member.

I also needed to arrange a meeting of my comps committee. A mere formality, one hour to discuss my proposal. In the entire month of April, there are three days one person can make it, and one time slot each day my advisor can make. I sent three e-mails over six days to the third committee member trying to find out if she could make any of those responses, then had to send another email to the first person to find out if she was available that (since she'd only given me days, not times) before I could finally know what time my comps proposal would be officially completed.

So, one morning to get a form taken care of by staff; one week to even hear back from all faculty committee members. The upshot of this is that my comps proposal is three weeks later than planned, although still within the "by April" deadline (and the paper was at least sent out before April), but the Lead Department GTA application was submitted the same day I started requesting signatures. I can't quite imagine how bad it will be when I'm trying to coordinate a five-person dissertation committee.

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