Sitting on my hands. Twiddling my thumbs.

I’ve had a fairly busy week at work.  I’m gamely trying to upgrade the operating system of our student information system even though my Unix skills are rusty and those, at that, were utilized more during my programming days, not my systems administrator days.  Add to that, IBM isn’t the big behemoth it is for nothing–you try finding your machine model online in order to find firmware updates.  In between times there were Help Desk requests from professors and other staff members, some off hours alerts when a few services went down, and a phishing attempt.  Just another day in the life of an Information Technologist.  Today, however, I sat on my hands.

Earlier in the week, a disgruntled adjunct went postal and splattered her vitriol all over the web and also in print, sending out Letters to the Editor in all directions and, while she was at it, starting up a blog in case she gathered a following.  Her rant to the school newspaper was printed in full, and, if you feel like reading verbal vomit, is here.

Aside from being an uncoordinated rant  spattered with definitive statements that don’t appear to have been researched at all (not at all the caliber of essayship I personally would expect from a professor), the point she is trying to make –I think– is that when a college is forced to make budget cuts, they should try to do it in such a way as to maintain the educational integrity of the school since–after all– that’s what the college’s mandate is.   She makes a point of targeting the “administration,” which, in all fairness, are in fact the decision makers of any institution.  But unfortunately, she then chose to post, apparently at random, the names and salaries of about 50 staff members, some of whom are far from the upper echelons of power, such as a boiler technician, an athletic trainer, a plumber, a phone technician and three colleagues of mine.  That she didn’t name me may only be an accident of fate since I didn’t join the college until last year, but the implication was that she didn’t actually just mean the “administration”, she meant all non-faculty staff members.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of her letter since she is so clearly spitting and not thinking.  I’m not going to further trash her character either–she appears to be doing that well enough on her own.  I’m not even going to point out that as someone who clearly ended her own academic pursuits short of the required credentials of a full tenure-track professor and who, presumably, has the brains to read the fine print on what being an adjunct actually entails, her particular current situation is really no surprise. (Okay, I just did point it out.  But I won’t elaborate.  Do your own research, gentle reader).   I’m going to tell you why I was sitting on my hands.

Somewhere along the week came an email from the Chancellor somewhat innocuously thanking all of us for input at a recent forum.  It came through the GAL (Global Address List) which, by College policy, is an email distribution list technically open to everyone in the college but is really only supposed to be posted to with permission by one of the higher-ups (the aforementioned “administration”).  There are plenty of other forums for people to engage in active discussions with each other so this is not actually an attempt to silence the masses.  Its really more of an attempt to protect the work flow of a bunch of overworked staff members who, as humans, can get easily distracted by something shiny.  Oooh!  New email!!  For me in particular, I’m kind of forced into watching my email fairly regularly to catch server alerts and help desk requests, especially as I’m oncall this week.  So when the next email came in, from someone who Replied All, I read it almost immediately.  It was a faculty member, inviting everyone to read the “courageous and informative” piece by the aforementioned adjunct which had appeared in the college newspaper.

Then another came in, comparing the faculty to slaves.

Then another came in, elaborating on the slave part.

Someone else chimed in and disputed the slave part.

Someone tried gently to stop the whole parade by asking them to quit emailing the GAL.

The adjunct union president sent a formal request through the GAL disavowing involvement in the original letter and informing his colleagues of the proper venues.

More professors chimed in, claiming that the GAL was actually the best place to engage in this kind of thing and if anyone didn’t want to read it they could delete it–effectively borrowing the Bulk Email Industry’s defense in the name of “dialogue”.  They decided on their own that if they changed the subject line that would somehow solve the whole problem and then continued with their diatribes against the rest of us with impunity.

Meanwhile, I sat on my hands.

I sat on my hands because, in the pure technical sense, I had the power to stop it. I could restrict send access to the GAL.  I could disable individual offenders’ accounts.  I could filter the particular email string so that it ended up in the Junk Folder where it belonged.  I could shut down the mail service altogether.

In previous incarnations I would have had not just the technical power to stop the inappropriate use of email but also the administrative power to stop it, and it wouldn’t have even gotten as far as this continuing tirade has.  But I am in no way part of the “administration” here, so I, like all the rest of my colleagues, are just sitting back and watching with painful amusement as the professor half of the college Occupies the GAL.  Instead, we’re engaging in little bitter one-off jokes based on quotes from the original infamous Letter to the Editor and subsequent professorial rants to pass the time.

“Well, I would do that but I’m busy writing a report about a report!  Come back later!  Oh wait!  I have a useless meeting in 5 minutes!”

“Cool!  Turns out that I’m part of the 1 percent!  That means I make more than an adjunct!  Awesome!  I’m gonna buy a yacht!”

“Yeah, you think you have problems?  At least you’re not a slave…..although they don’t feed us.  I’m hungry.”

Just a day in the life of a non-faculty useless administrator working for no particular reason other than to steal money from disgruntled, crazy adjuncts at a public institution.  You know, ho hum.  My hands are getting numb.  Can I go home now?

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