I don’t mean here. By all means, feel free to email me, make comments, etc. No, this is specifically job-related. See, by and large I don’t read my faculty email. Some time ago, I established some very strict policies for what gets deleted immediately without being opened.
First on the list is anything marked Urgent. A red exclamation point can only mean two things. Either it’s not nearly as urgent as the self-important fuckwit sending it thinks it is, or if it is that important, someone will eventually show up at my office or call me (to be fair I don’t answer my phone much either). Otherwise, I don’t have to bother with it.
A close second is anything from an administrator who is not my dean. If I’m honest, 95% of what the dean sends me doesn’t get read either, but at least I check the subject line. Few if any of these people have any authority in terms of firing me, and if they do have said authority, the rule for Urgent emails work effectively here as well. What any administrator thinks is that important generally is not.
Every now and then, just to remind myself why I don’t read this crap, I’ll take a look at one of these idiotic missives. Sometimes I don’t make it past “As a valued employee.” If I felt valued, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
Here’s an excerpt from a fairly recent one:
[Institution-specific material removed] highlights innovation to support teaching and learning by providing quality teaching and learning through high impact practices, technology integration, and continuous development for faculty and students. Specifically, [the institution] will establish a Center For Teaching Excellence supporting the design and development of high impact digital learning experiences.
It is essential that all faculty are supported and engaged in high impact strategies that focus on and incorporate the individual needs of our students and reflect research in the scholarship of teaching and learning, regardless of instructional delivery modality.
An advisory council will meet in-person to create synergy and support open dialogue from all members.
And that, true believers, was all I could stand. If you can get past the preponderance of buzzwords, you can see the writer has quite the thing for “high impact” as it was used three times in forty-four words. That’s why I put it in bold. And what the fuck is “instructional delivery modality?” You mean “how the class is taught?”
George Carlin had a fantastic bit about language and how we moved from “shell shock” to “post traumatic stress disorder,” from two syllables to eight. He’d have had a fuckin’ field day with this shit. “How the class is taught,” five syllables, versus “instructional delivery modality,” twelve syllables. Nearly three times as long. And while I’m at it, isn’t all learning “quality learning?”
As for meeting “to create synergy,” I have to tell you, I’ve been to a few of these kinds of things. I don’t think “synergy” means what they think it means. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “combined action or operation.” In my experience, the fastest way to kill anything is to send it to a committee. As for “open dialogue,” that’s just admin code for “Here’s what we want” while perpetuating the illusion that the faculty has a voice.
But back to the delete list. Third is anything from a textbook rep or publisher. With one exception, I don’t have any required texts in my classes. The exception is mythology. They buy Joseph Campbell’s The Power Of Myth which they can pick up easily for fifteen bucks or less brand new. I also encourage them to get it used from Better World Books. It’s insanely cheap and circumvents another predatory pack of criminals, the campus bookstore.
Book reps generally don’t even come to my office anymore. For a long time, they couldn’t get their heads around the idea of an intro to literature class not having a textbook. I’ve tried to explain to these
snake oil charlatans textbook reps that everything I use in class is public domain. A few companies eventually tried to get around that by hyping their digital content, but I always play the “public domain and therefore free” card. Most of them have since given up on me.
Fourth, anything from “colleagues” I don’t talk to regularly. Really just “colleagues” since those who are my friends know better. I don’t want/need suggestions from you, share your institutional interests, or have any inclination to be helpful. And I sure as hell have zero intention of joining your committee, coming to your meeting, taking your survey, donating to your cause, participating in much less showing up for the christmas party, or celebrating, well, anything.
I don’t get paid enough for that.
Eliminating the flotsam that falls into one of these categories doesn’t leave much, and even then my reading it is doubtful, my responding to it even more so.
I know. “What about your students?” Not to worry. Every class has a thing called a Canvas shell where we can post syllabi, class notes, announcements, grades, etc. It also comes with its own Inbox. So I tell students a number of times during the first couple of weeks that if they need to email me, use Canvas, or I will likely never see it. And that’s that.
You might think that teaching from home on Zoom during the pandemic would force me to keep up with my email. You’d be wrong. I might pay marginally more attention than I did before, but most things haven’t changed, especially if it’s Urgent. Long live technology.