Never let it be said that The Great Desert University is not a weird place to work.
Yesterday one of our client editors dropped by to break a bottle of champagne over the latest issue of her journal to set to sea. While we were confabulating, the subject of the next issue came up, and I remarked that of course I did not know whether our office will still be in business when the spring 2009 issue is in preparation for press.
This caused a moment or two (or three) of stunned silence.
While she was struggling to catch her breath, I explained that the rumor mill first had it that everyone in my job category was to be laid off; then that only certain people in my category would be laid off; then that 50 people on our campus will go; then 100.
She said the university can’t be that broke, because it’s still hiring: her department is doing three searches right now, and Our Beloved Employer finally signed the candidate for the directorship of our sister program. I pointed out that the Learning Factory of Baja Arizona has a hiring freeze on; that I’d applied for a job there only to see the opening go away.
(Good God! She applied for a job there!?!) You could see the alarm as the thought registered.
This is one of those midcareer academics who’s been around long enough to have considerable clout but not long enough to be paid equitably. That means she has access to various ears.
“Well,” said I, “if you know any political strings to pull, now is the time to pull them, because from what I’ve been told the decisions will be made in December.”
“Okay,” said she.
Forthwith, she put the electronic touch on her chair, forwarding a copy to moi.
About three hours later, along comes this message from Her Deanship:
Just a note to say that we value the work of [your office] and the work you all do to support our journals. This is an integral part of [our vast unit’s] operations and value added.
This is classic Deanspeak. Deans do not say anything, not so much as “hello, how are you today,” in a direct manner. To do so would put them and everyone around them at risk. So, they speak in code.
What does it mean? Let’s parse it:
- We value the work of your office: effectively without meaning. Everyone’s work is generally valued, even that of the scores of faculty associates who have already been canned. It’s an effort to be kind.
- …support our journals…: meaningful. The degree to which a position supports the university’s mission will determine the likelihood that it will or will not survive the coming purge. Our office supports two parts of that mission: we support research and we provide meaningful real-world vocational training. Big, though not huge.
- …an integral part of [our vast unit’s] operations…: this could border on huge. “Integral part” means “our vast unit would be significantly harmed by the loss of this program.” Good.
- value added: interesting new buzzword! I haven’t heard that one in the present context. We’ll be tracking down its source and using it in our next report.
Mmm hm. I believe the gist of this message is “I don’t think you’re going to be laid off.”
LOL! We’ll find out soon enough. The Board of Regents meets in the first week of December; after that, more layoff announcements are expected.