Meetings: The Kinky Fetish of Academic Administrators

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Dutch BDSM by Paula Morales. Creative Commons.

We professors generally bear with good humor all of life’s foibles, it’s ups and downs, its triumphs and capriciousness, with enthusiasm and bonhomie, we have to — it’s mindset we must have in order to manage the classroom — until, that is,

Observeth it’s shadow creepeth over the land, with it’s terrible sulphuric stench as though a smog, nearly, when we should expect it least, who enforceth it’s terrible maleficent intents upon all angelic form with maximum disruption, that beast spawned from the kinky fetish of administrative earth is risen, at once two-horned and who speaketh like a dragon, and who goeth by the name of Academic Meeting.

It’s fall and we have just emerged, somewhat unwillingly, from our haze of intense and focused research and into the world. We are staggering along, emaciated, rediscovering what it means to pay bills and breath on rhythm, blinking our eyes in continual amazement at the stunning grandeur of life. It is really something out here.

But there, the distant sea swells before us. The swell grows and it approaches with an alarming rapidity. We identify it — we’re looking out to our first class in the first week of what is to be a many week semester. We put down our peanut butter sandwich and the future flashes: All those bright and shining eyes looking for direction and hope, those heads full of fear and anticipation, and we think, surely we can’t let them diminish.

Horror awakens. Looming is the staggering preparation. We must set up weeks; reconsider and revise course content so it aligns with newest developments, reevaluate our ways that students progress toward learner outcomes, revise based on our always changing interests; populate the classes with content; develop through-line questions; scaffold learning; design opportunities for student practice and reinforcement within classes; plan TA meetings and duties; set up our material on management learning systems; do the readings so we can situate each correctly; design and produce presentation content; think through group activities so we know what outcomes will likely occur; decide upon our use and variation of teaching methods and learning strategies; find relevant contemporary supplementary resources; create quizzes and tests; reconsider our evaluative procedures and rubrics in light of revisions to the course; add students to our online course shells; produce and upload all relevant documents; and revise course syllabi.

It’s a big Rubik’s Cube in which one change affects all parts. We’d better start now. We’ll just barely be done by the first class, and that’s only if we skip two meals a day and pare our sleeping down to four hours a night. Not bad compared to our very first semester way back when. Not bad at all.

But we are fools; fools we are. We are stupid, stupid, stupid, thinking in our scholarly Grendel-like delusion that we alone control our sovereignty.

The beast born of the kinky fetish rises its head and the horn is sounded: “Memo: To all faculty.”

We are with nods and prods urged to attend any number of minutiae filled meetings, the content of which would be, should be in the body of an email.

But noooooooo. Academic administrators must pursue their kinky fetish.

They seem to live for the opportunity of prancing before before a group of highly educated academics, experts in their respective fields, and boring them to death with the obvious as though we are elementary school children.

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Combating Boredom Infograph by Kristie Kam. Creative Commons.

“Today children, we will be introduced to Mr. Silly Needle who will talk about why you shouldn’t mainline heroin while teaching” and “Today kids, Mrs. Silly Assistant will tell us all about the new student procedure titled Just One Bum in One Chair. She’ll go over it in excruciating detail in case some of you can’t read these little black and white characters that we educated academic administrators call letters and words. Can you say that with us…let-ters and worrrrrds. Verrr-y good.”

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!” (Dr. Seuss in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)

These academic administrators either lament or demand that faculty ought to be fluent with the very latest teaching methods (this alone, they say, would stop the retention bleed) and yet they are the same people who convey their own information to faculty in one way: Top down, sage on the stage where they read PowerPoint and Prezi productions comprised of stock photos interspersed with data dumps and witticisms they found on a quote site. For an hour. For two hours. For entire days.

If they’re feeling especially plucky they pull out of their hat the idiots version of some superficial workshop they attended, if it was in a workshop it must be true and reliable. They seem to be unaware that we have a library with access to an entire world of research, in fact, they seem unaware of what research is. They don’t even realize they are often presenting on subjects some of us have researched deeply. If we raise our hands, they say, “In the interest of our full agenda, please hold your questions.”

Next in their declarative democracy, the senior administrators display and read documents that were workshopped through a year’s worth of administrative meetings and although they affect what faculty do on a daily basis, they have not once invited any real input from us. If we mention this they categorize us as rude, messy, half-witted, whining, radicals.

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Painting of S/M sexuality. John Willie, pseudonym for John Alexander Scott Coutts. “Bizarre” magazine, 1946–1949 (years of publication). Wikimedia Commons.

I used to think academic administrators drank from the same trough the elixir that caused them to believe meetings were they only way to get things done. Then I wondered if brain cells drizzled out of their their crania, and I mean this literally.

Over and over we faculty begged those scheduling such meetings, “For the love of all things sacred don’t schedule meetings filled with minutiae that are better put into the bodies of emails while we’re prepping courses in the fall.” That was like teaching a worm to bowl. We said, “We beg you, schedule these meetings after classes end in the Spring while we are still on the job and have the time.” That was as effective as the alcoholic saying “This is my absolute last one and then I’m quitting for good.”

I wondered, do academic administrators have a form of alexithymia, a subclinical inability to identify emotions; do they look at our faces, all cranky and bored for having to waste hours and days at these meetings and in think our responses are positive reactions to friendly get-back-together events? Are they this desperate to avoid their offices? Do they view these meetings as ways of setting their own semester’s agenda and they want faculty witnesses? Do they see such meetings as a passive aggressive manner of publicly condescending to and demeaning faculty?

I can no longer figure out any logical rationale for their continuation of these meetings.

So here’s where I’m at now. I’ve given up on the logical reasons. I feel fairly convinced that academic administrators actually have a subconscious, uncontrollable kinky fetish for such meetings.

Yes, kinky in the sense that the meetings are deviant and non-standard, and a fetish in that they give the meetings unreasonably excessive attention because it arouses them, sexually I mean. I actually think they get aroused by such meetings and the more I think this, the more I have begun to feel uncomfortable about being an object of a kinky fetish at the workplace.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and that kinky fetish called Academic Meetings followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with tedium, and with mundanity, and with pointlessness, and with the minutia of the earth.

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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