Here’s a development: The brand-new director of our sister program, who hasn’t a clue but who does have a six-figure salary and commensurate clout, e-mailed to ask what our office could provide by way of assistantships or internships for her graduate students. What openings, she inquired, would be available over the summer and next fall?
Well, o’course the answer to that is Heaven only knows, ’cause no one on this earthly plane does. But the realpolitick response was what a choice opportunity!
So naturally (oh, so naturally), I forwarded her query to Her Deanship with a disingenuous inquiry of my own: If all three of our research assistants stay through the summer and one stays on in the fall, may we hire two new RAs in the fall? If not, may we hire one new RA in the fall?
I love it! This foists the untoward question onto the new kid. And, well…New Kid being who and what she is, such a question coming from her pretty much demands an answer. It’s even within the realm of possibility (just within it) that she could command a straight answer. More or less.
E-mail forwarded to Deanship under a cover note, I rare back and watch.
Pretty quick, along comes a fine nonanswer: “I’ll check.”
This means Her Deanship will confer with her boss, His Vicepresidentship. One of three answers will issue forth. Here’s what they are, and here’s what they mean:
“We don’t know” (possibly phrased as “that decision has yet to be made” or “we’re still trying to figure it out”): This means “Don’t hire anyone, because you ain’t likely to be here much longer.”
“We can’t keep the present RAs over the summer but will (or probably will) hire one or two new RAs in the fall”: That one translates to “we are flat broke and we hope the students to whom we committed ourselves for 12-month contracts are not the litigious type; however, we expect your office will be in business after federal funds start to come in. Assuming any such funds do in fact materialize.”
“We will commit unequivocally to hiring new RAs in the fall”: This unlikely response will mean “your office assuredly will continue to exist despite the layoffs.”
Now. None of these means that the office necessarily will continue in business with me in charge of it. There is, after all, a classified position of managing editor, for which any number of graduates of our sister program would be eminently qualified. Starting salary for such a being: about half of what I earn. However, given the nature of institutional inertia, it’s probable that as long as the office survives, my job will survive.
Heh heh heh heh heh… Watch this space!