Friday, February 12, 2016

Enough's enough: knowing when to say "I'm done with this"

As one part of my job, I have to deal with Fiendish Counterintuitive Software.  (I figure that every campus has some kind of FCS, so I'm not alone.) FCS requires training, and workshops, and more training every time they change FCS, which is constantly.  I have some administrative assistance with FCS, but I still have to deal with it. (I'm reminded of Bardiac's post about how universities are off-loading clerical tasks as an unpaid addition to faculty duties.)

When you think you have FCS-taming down to a fine art, it suddenly locks you out, or won't permit changes, or otherwise balks. Then the FCS gods say, "Oh, didn't we tell you? You can't do it that way."

Sometimes it doesn't load at all, and you contact the FCS gods, and they tell you variations of "You're doing it wrong"--must be the wrong browser, wrong time of day, poor connection, etc. It never is.

And we continually get sudden, cheerful threat letters from the FCS gods: "X has to be done during the week of [insert inconvenient date] or else." 

The time spent on this part of my job has literally doubled since FCS was installed. I keep time logs of this, because I can't believe how much time it takes.

This week and last have been devoted to servicing the FCS, to the exclusion of any writing and the barest minimum of class prep. 

The latest cheerful threat letter--let's call it Threat Level Midnight--commanded that a New Procedure should be done. I tried and failed (more hours wasted) over the past two days before learning that--"Oh, didn't we tell you?"--I don't have access to do New Procedure, which requires yet more training, before I can do yet another task that is essentially clerical.*

Did I mention that at all the trainings I attended, I saw only women, and mostly support staff, involved? No male department heads, professors, or administrators.

Did I mention that as an academic, my job description is publishing, teaching, and service, in that order, with the last-named now completely overwhelming the other two, thanks to FCS?

Did I mention that I recently received a small university-wide honor for my scholarship and not my FCS-wrangling abilities?

So I walked into the chair's office and said, "I'm done with this. No more FCS training. No New Procedure. I'm done." Ze agreed, wholeheartedly.

Sometimes, enough's enough. 

*Edited to add: I've worked at clerical jobs and enjoyed them. But this job is not supposed to be one of them.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

YESSSS!!! Life is too short. Good decision.

undine said...

Thanks, Dame Eleanor!

Contingent Cassandra said...

Excellent choice. I'm finding that more and more of my job (which is admittedly teaching-only) is becoming clerical, e.g. updating all the due dates everywhere on the million-and-one pieces into which every assignment is broken down in the name of scaffolding (which I actually believe in, but if anything's going to turn me into a doubter, this is it). And the people doing this sort of heavily-scaffolded intro teaching are also overwhelmingly female (though I get the impression that students are more and more carrying an expectation for extremely detailed instructions, rather than an ability to break things down themselves, into the upper-level classes where the professors who give fewer instructions, and are more likely to have penises, hang out, so this may not be having quite the intended effect).

In any case, I'm glad you opted out. Nothing is going to change until more people do.

Janice said...

Good for you. I'm pushing back about our website (my own particular version of FSC). I can only do this on campus. I have to fit information into a pre-ordained structure but without any guiding templates. Oh, and I have to produce this in flawless English and French prose.

Um, no, Skippy. I have teaching to do and research to complete as well as the rest of my service obligations. Life is too short to waste time on what will surely be scraped as "not what we were looking for".

Good for you, undine, for dropping FSC back into their laps. I hope that your Chair suggests that FSC become a fully-recompensed part of some staff members' workload and not randomly dumped on whoever they find next.

undine said...

Contingent Cassandra--that has to be crazymaking, changing all those dates. And if you forget even one, that's the one that the students will find and hold you to. In our online classes, there's one list of dates to change and everything else can stay the same. When I questioned this at first, they said, "trust us, you'll appreciate it," and they were right. I sometimes wish we could do this with our in-person classes.

Janice--"Only do this on campus" is bad enough, but knowing that you can spend hours on something only to have them dismiss it as "not what we were looking for"? Yes, do push back.

To be fair, there is someone who can do this and helps me with it, and my Chair has been supportive of delegating more of this work. But because of some misplaced emotion (pride at a git-r-done ethic when it comes to computers? Not wanting to oppress the support staff with too much work? Being a woman and hence used to being assigned/doing this kind of work?) I haven't delegated as many of these responsibilities as I could and should. That's now changed, and I informed the FSC gods that X would be checking these things (because zie has access and I don't) henceforth and that they were to let me know if there were any problems. Done and done, I hope.