Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Faculty Orientation

I dunno, maybe I'm just a big dork, but I really liked my new faculty orientation day. I got to see face to face (and sit at lunch with) some of the people who will be making major decisions about my life over the next five years. I got some right-on advice about what you really need to do about tenure in a research department. I learned about the university's official educational goals for its students, and got introduced to people who can offer advice on how to work within that framework. I got to hear a really inspiring talk-through of how the big R&E initiative on campus works, and how I can get in on it. I got to meet some other new faculty from VERY different departments than mine, making some friendly acquaintances and a contact for funneling some grad students who might be wanting to bring their very different, but needed, expertise and interests to my lab. I learned about the giant supercomputer resources available (including REAL PEOPLE to get interface and application development help from!).

I took part in a provocative discussion during a case study of what one should do when a student comes to you with allegations of inappropriate behavior by one of your colleagues. And was simultaneously shocked and not shocked about how many people:

1. seriously argued that they should not get involved because "the politics could be too complicated" and the potential for getting dragged in and damaged was too high (incidentally, the university policy is that THEY HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO GET INVOLVED at least as a confidential whistle-blower to the office that handles such things--so they better realize that IT IS THEIR JOB TO DO SOMETHING no matter how afraid they are of the politics in their department).

2. 's first response was to say, "well, how do we know this professor (who as described by the case study had a reputation for inappropriate conduct and had been investigated about it in the past) really did it and the student is not just making it up for sympathy?"

Altogether, I thought the whole day was really worthwhile. Unlike the guy at the table next to me who made no attempt to hide his efforts to fall asleep all during the morning talks, and didn't show up for the afternoon. If that's how extreme he feels about what his JOB is about, why does he want to do it? Most people at least quietly slipped out without causing a stir if they just couldn't take it anymore.

2 comments:

okham said...

Were any of the following questions asked:

1) What the #$%^& in the world is a probationary faculty supposed to do when the department chair gives a committee assignment, given that the same faculty will be later on criticized by the college and university Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure (RPT) committee for "spending too much time with committee work" ?

2) What are the stats for RPT at that University/in that college/in that department ?

3) What are the relative weights assigned to teaching, research and service in RPT decisions ?

4) Should grading be based on a curve ?

5) How is graduate student supervision factored into teaching ?

If so, was any non-bs type answer offered ? Just curious...

Okham (the cynical one)

Arlenna said...

At this one, since it was for >100 new faculty from all over, all they could tell us was that RPT was different in each department but that research was the clear bottom line across the board. They could only say that the relative weights assigned differed on a case-by-case basis.

What was kind of interesting was that they had a seminar about teaching strategies where this awesome teacher told us about how letting students know both the learning goals and the metrics at the beginning of the class was a much more effective way to help them reach those goals and that "I'll know it when I see it" is not a good way to assess student learning...

Kind of like how letting new faculty know the RPT goals and metrics would be a much more effective way of helping them reach those goals...? Yah.

In my department, the department head is pretty transparent about that stuff and they set you up with a formal senior faculty mentorship committee (who you get to pick, so you make sure it is people who you know "get" you and are interested in your success). My department also has a relatively good track record for getting people through tenure. You can only lead horses to water though...