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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I hope blogging isn't 'work'

I'm on furlough today - my first furlough day on a teaching day. For any non-Californians reading this, the CSU faculty are required to take 9 furlough days each semester this year; unlike faculty in the University of California system, we are allowed to schedule ours on days when we teach (i.e., we can cancel classes), though we were still required to get approval of our furlough schedule from our department chairs. After a lot of agonizing, I decided to take three of my nine days on teaching days and I scheduled them on the days prior to the three midterms in my Principles class. That might sound odd, since this would presumably be when my students would most need me around but I have always used the class meeting before an exam to do an in-class review session; I figured that by canceling those, students would need to do more work on their own but I wouldn't actually have to cut anything from the curriculum of the course. Unfortunately, since I scheduled my furlough days around my Principles class, this means that my upper-division class, which also meets Tuesdays-Thursdays, is simply out of luck but I tried to encourage them to use the time to meet with their groups for a group project due later in the semester.

Part of the CSU furlough agreement says that we are NOT supposed to work on furlough days; the powers-that-be wanted to be very clear that these were truly furloughs, not just temporary paycuts. All I can say about that is the idea of non-working 'furloughs' for faculty is complete crap (at least research-active faculty). While faculty can certainly re-arrange their work so that they aren't technically working on their furlough days, that is NOT the same thing as our workload being reduced by 10% overall. For example, my last furlough day was on a Friday a couple weeks ago and I did exactly what I would have done if it weren't a furlough day: I spent most of the day prepping a conference presentation I was giving the following week. Could I have not worked that day? Sure, but then I would have been working all day Saturday or Sunday instead so how is that reducing my workload? And today, I spent the morning writing my personal statement and getting a ton of paperwork together for my promotion case (due tomorrow). Could I have moved things around so I didn't technically do work today? Of course - I was thinking I should have taped the Charger game to watch it today and spent my Sunday afternoon doing this work instead. Oh wait, actually, that wouldn't work because I grade papers in between plays during the games on Sundays... But you get my point. I thought a comment on a friend's Facebook summed it up the best: "Faculty have flexible schedules, not flexible workloads."

A colleague in the Communications department highlighted another problem with furloughs for faculty: most of us love our work so does that mean it isn't 'work'?
I'm resisting the urge to do any work, thinking that I may actually have to do some work today to stay caught up, and wondering whether writing articles counts as work. If the question is, "Would I write anyway?" the answer is yes. Do I get paid to do it as part of my workload? Yes. So, is it work? Is it enjoyable play? Yes on both counts. It's a wonderful part of my job that these two strands are intertwined. Even my writing this entry could count as a pre-writing for possible articles: work-life balance, organizational identification, emotion labor... I could go on. But am I allowed to?
Which just brings me back to the title of this post...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sometimes I wish I could NOT think like an economist

I've been waffling about joining the gym at school - I used to belong, let my membership lapse when I went on sabbatical, and haven't re-started it, though I am incredibly out of shape. I keep saying, "I really need to get back in shape" so recently a friend asked, "Why don't you just bite the bullet and join the gym? Then you'll have extra motivation to go since you'll already be paying for it." I laughed and explained that unfortunately, this is one of those times when I think too much like an economist - most people would think as my friend does, that paying the monthly fee would give me an additional incentive to go, but as an economist, I think about the fact that once I've paid the monthly membership fee, it's a sunk cost. Whether I actually go use the gym or not, the fee will be charged to my credit card, so simply paying the fee will have no impact on my decision to go to the gym on any given day. The marginal cost of going to the gym on a particular day is still only the energy I'll have to expend that day. Knowing this, the decision to join the gym in the first place depends only on whether I really believe I'll use it; it doesn't create any additional incentive to actually go (admittedly, joining reduces the marginal cost of going, relative to if I didn't have a membership, since if I go without a membership, I pay a day-use fee; however, the main reason I don't go is because I'm basically lazy so that doesn't help much).

Of course, following this logic, if I really wanted to get my butt to the gym, I could set up some sort of commitment mechanism that does change the marginal cost or marginal benefit of going on a regular basis. For example, I could give some money to my friend and tell him to only give it back to me if I actually go to the gym at least three times a week this month. I guess the fact that I'm hesitant to do this is an indication of just how lazy I really am...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First-day jitters

Considering how much time I spend talking in front of large groups of people, you would think that I would eventually stop being nervous about it. And for the most part, I am way more comfortable than I used to be; for example, I no longer rehearse my conference presentations word-for-word in front of the hotel mirror the morning of my session (well, not word-for-word anyway). But I'm still waiting for the semester when I don't feel really, really nervous before my first class meetings (and I'm talking 'think I need to go throw up' nervous). And it's not just because I have 500 students - I get this way before my smaller classes too. The thing is, I know that as soon as I walk in and start talking, I'll be fine; it's not like I'm imagining some disaster that I won't be able to handle, or I think the students will totally hate me. But knowing that I'll be fine doesn't seem to diminish how nervous I am beforehand.

I suppose, in some ways, it's a good thing - I'm sure some people would say that it's a sign that I care. And maybe the year I'm not nervous I'll realize that it's time to do something else with my life. But right now, I just really would like to get this day over with!