Friday, April 20, 2007

Return of Bizarro U

Here are the latest happenings in the ongoing tales of academic life between the disciplinary cracks at my Bizarro World university.

Faithful readers may remember that in our last episode, administrators at Bizarro U were busy dismantling my interdisciplinary department and sending all of the faculty back to our various disciplinary homes – all while anticipating that interdisciplinary research, teaching, and service would continue on campus unaffected by these trivial changes.

Now we have just been informed by our leaders that our interdisciplinary programs are to be resurrected and reborn at Bizarro U, not as simply another academic department, but as a brand new college. This is astounding. And not only has the creation of this college been conceived and decided since January, with barely a whisper to the faculty, it will be in place starting July 1. Truly bizarro.

I'm thrilled by this new development, although still less than happy with the continuing lack of faculty consultation. At this point, though, I'm willing to be cautiously optimistic about the future of interdisciplinary work on my campus. I think, against all odds, we may see a dramatic increase in institutional support for interdisciplinary research and teaching.

There is one very large catch in the current plans for the new college – it will not have any tenure lines of its own. This means that all the faculty working in the new college will have other masters to please who hold the strings of tenure, promotion, and merit raises. However, this may be a temporary situation. The complications of such a system may outweigh the difficulties of shaking lose tenure lines from other colleges. We shall see.

In any case, things are looking up at Bizarro U. Not only do I have tenure now, but I may get to teach in a shiny new interdisciplinary college. Bizarro.


  1. You are not alone. As someone who works in a traditional discipline, who is also appointed in an interdisciplinary unit, I am used to the administrative trick of hammering round pegs into square holes, with odd results.

    The suits like to decide 'policy', while ignoring practicality. By the sound of it, the situation you describe sounds like a symptom of a turf war between administrators. When our multidisciplinary unit was being set up, it bounced between no less than three deans (can you imagine trying to get anything signed?). Eventually, it is now kind of under one dean, but also a little bit under another. I love the new program, but the paper trail still makes no sense.

    Good luck with your new college. Just know, you are not alone. The trick is to figure out how to hack the system, to make it work to your advantage. Hint: being able to raid multiple travel budgets is pretty useful at times.

    The Combat Philosopher

  2. Thanks for the comment CP. Ours is definitely a turf war. One odd result of this battle is that the new college won't have a dean but will be headed by an associate vice chancellor who trumps the other college deans. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Tenure does mean I get to play a more active role than just more turf to be stepped on.

    Thanks for the tip about multiple travel budgets -- I'll remember that one.