Field of Science

Saving Faculty Time - An Administrative Fairy Tale

This is the time of year when you have to report, on the basis of a calendar year, what you accomplished over portions of two academic years and the summer in between.  So when your provost introduces a new system for reporting your productivity based on the premise that it will save you time you know you're about to get hosed.  Provosts do not care about saving your time; they want things to be easy for themselves.  So clearly the new system called digital measures is actually so they can quickly and easily generate a bean-counting report, and no question about it, Provost Plodder is a real bean counter.  TPP's rough estimate is that with about 10 times as much effort, a fraction of the information usually reported has been digitally measured.  In an effort to really evaluate quality teaching, teaching evaluations have been reduced to a single average number, not even average numbers in a list of categories (like when TPP got low evaluations for exams in a seminar class that didn't have any exams!), and no written comments either, just one number.  This is a banal as it gets and something TPP predicted would happen when teaching evaluations were introduced.  They want abstracts of your presentations, in 30 words, when the standard of our field, and many others too, is 300 words.  They want an abstract that's just twice as long as the title, and re-writing an abstract is such a time-saver!  And of course, any form that attempts to be a one-size-fits-all form across an entire university is destined to be a piece of crap, difficult to use, and of limited value.  Such forms generate apparent data because you are forced into entering things in some boxes in certain ways such that apples, oranges, and pencil shavings will end up being compared.  Apparently their idea is that as soon as you generate a bean (A student answered a question today; it was answered.) you run right off to the Internet and record the event digitally, so at the end of the year, you just push a button and an annual report is generated!  This way you waste little tiny bits of time throughout the year rather than writing a report at the end of the year.  It's hard to even figure out where to put some of the standard stuff let alone non-standard (yes, even in this day and age!) stuff like blogging, and other dubious activities.  Each and every entry wanted some piece of information that had to be looked up elsewhere to save even more time.  After all this is some form of public out-reach, an educational tool, largely botany, but edumacating people about higher edumacation too.  TPP spent as much time as he was able, and more time than it deserved.  So, if my provost reads this, digital measures really, really bites.  The most obvious piece of data is that this company is really selling this product like hotcakes, and the assistant provost who oversees the introduction will certainly be given a really good evaluation for this accomplishment, if they can find the right category.  Oh, there it is: Big Wastes of Time and Money: progress in assessment.

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