Friday, December 05, 2008

This is the song that never ends

A month ago, at a large meeting:

Person A: "You know, the students really want to take Specialty Course Y; there's a lot of pent-up demand for it. Why can't we offer it?"

Person B: "It's not required for the major, and everyone is teaching essential courses. Besides, you're the only person who can teach Specialty Course Y, and you wanted to teach Specialty Course X instead."

A few weeks ago, in the hallway:

Person A: "I really don't see why we can't offer Specialty Course Y. The students really want to take it."

Person B: "We are all tied up with teaching the courses we need to teach for the tracks in the major. Specialty Course Y doesn't fit into one of those, although the curriculum committee could take a look at instituting that field as a track. Besides, you're the only person who can teach Specialty Course Y, and you didn't offer it this year."

Recently, in a large meeting:

Person A: "We really need to teach Specialty Course Y. The students really want to take it, and I don't know why we can't offer it. Of course we don't have time to discuss it now."

Person B, jumping up as if his/her pants are on fire: "Yes, we can talk about it right now. Specialty Course Y is not a required course for the major. It is not part of any track in the major; if we want to do that, we have to send it to the curriculum committee. Since you're the one who can teach that course, if you want it taught, you could offer it [instead of Specialty Course X]."

6 comments:

Professor Zero said...

Person A: Although there is a Topics course number we use use for Specialty Course Y, which I offer once every two or three years, I believe it would be more prestigious for purposes of student transcripts if we could have a special course number uniquely dedicated to Specialty Course Y.

Professor Zero: Fine. Send it to the curriculum committee.

Person A: But you are so good at administration. Couldn't you just do the paperwork?

undine said...

Yes, exactly. And this is the reason that course numbers expand and contract like a bellows over the years.

Professor Zero said...

Yes. But if you explain that to someone, you are perceived as opposing their course.

Carl said...

I've reread this twice and still can't figure out quite what's up. Person A is classically passive-aggressive. The communication is not direct, responsibility is not taken. What does it want? It's teaching the course it said it wanted to. Is there another course it's teaching it would rather not - does it think student demand or constant nagging might shake loose a desirable reconfiguration of its schedule?

undine said...

I'm guessing that Person A really does want to see the course taught because of student demand (altruistic motive) but would also like to be released from teaching a more mundane course so that he/she gets two specialty courses rather than one (when the norm is one). I think your second sentence sums this up perfectly.

Carl said...

Yeah. Well, I guess we could deplore the life that has led it to such a poor sense of its own agency. And cross the street when we see it coming. Good luck, Person B.