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Grinning Through Clenched Teeth (and bearing it)

August 10, 2009

Ok.  So today I had to go on campus to turn in my syllabi. ( Or is it syllabuses? Every person I ask tells me something different. ) We are required to turn in hard copies — none of this mamby pamby digital stuff. We turn them in so that the Assistant WPA — who, to spare her justified embarrassment, I will refer to as Dr. Wheel ‘n Deal — can go over them and make sure they’re up to snuff. I occasionally have to make revisions at least once. It’s too soon to know, but I’m certain that dear Dr. Wheel ‘n Deal, with her talent for tedium and mediocrity, will come up with something. 

After leaving home (alone… Stella refused to brave the heat with me on this expedition, even though I vaugely promised a free lunch. Smart kid.) and before getting to the Writing Programs Office, I stopped at the campus Commuter Transit Center, located across the street from the new Tempe Transit Center — where the light rail, the metro, and the little blue Orbit busses all meet.  My reason for stopping –to renew my bus pass. My first year here — that would be AY 2006-07 — all students, staff, and faculty got free bus passes. I thought that was fantastic; a good way to help cut down on congested car traffic and hopefully solve the parking crisis. (All college and university campuses have a parking crisis. It works like this: they build Znumber of spaces to accommodate faculty, staff and students. But they really need Z x 10,000 spaces to truly accommodate each and every person who has a car.  They are aware of this, but rather than just cut off the number of parking passes they sell or come up with better parking alternatives, they sell approximately Z x100,000 and make everyone fight it out. Those who lose just park illegally, and are given parking tickets. The genius of this system isn’t difficult to figure out. They get money both ways and the rest of get screwed like the prison nurse in a gang bang porno. Vaseline optional. On a grander scale, the Board of Regents will see that there is a parking crisis and, in clearly useless attempt at “solving” it, will find money to buy up land under Eminent Domain Laws that turn grannys into homeless bag ladies and build One More Parking Garage… that they will have to pay for by bumping up the cost of parking/commuting and which, by the time it’s done, won’t cover the explosion of new enrollments. ) Last year, though, I had to pay for mine. This was accomplished through payroll deduction, and I was told that even though I had to pay for it, it was still cheaper than buying the monthly pass directly from valleymetro. But students still got their passes for free, and I thought that was pretty cool.

But today when I walked up to the Commuter Transit Center, I was greeted with the following sign:

0810090952aI guess in the light of the ongoing economic crisis, the good folks at ASU have finally passed on the cost to those who are already paying out the ass — the students.  Their passes, though, ARE cheaper than buying through valleymetro. And they’re still paying less than me. So I guess they’re still getting a pretty good deal. (Let me know if that makes any of you feel better. That’s pretty much what I was told, nearly word for word, and I sure didn’t feel lucky.)

I walked in and stood in line. While I was standing in line, I noticed a movie poster sized announcement that I will include here for your reading and viewing pleasure. [Note: this and all pictures are taken with my cell phone.]:

 0810090947a The gist of this, if you can’t make it out, is this: in 2005 (the year before I got here) ASU was given some award for being a Commuter Friendly Workplace.   Let that sink in for a minute. Clearly this is an achievement they were (and are) proud of. They’re so proud they put a big poster up to show everyone.

I wonder if they notice they’d no longer qualify for such an award. Maybe not. Or maybe they’re flaunting it so that new faculty, staff, and students will walk away with the feeling of being not so important. It’s sort of like going to a new date’s apartment only to find the walls covered with pictures of the ex. You might not leave… but you have to wonder about how you rate when there’s no room for you on the wall.

Ok. So I got my bus pass. I am offically metro friendly again, and even though I have to pay for it, it’s still my prefered form of transportation when the missus has the little green roller skate. 

After that, I walked up to the building where the Writing Programs Offices are located (across campus from where my actual office is and from where I usually teach) and found the graduate student/faculty computer lab — where I could run off copies of my syllabi (syllabuses?) to hand in. That was a pretty simple operation… though I’m afraid I killed what was left of the toner in the printer. Oops.

Then I walked on down the hall. The Administrative Assistant/Office Boss, who I will call Doris — because 1)she’s pretty awesome, and 2) if Wheel ‘n Deal gets an alias, I have to be fair — greeted me. I’ve always tried to stay on good terms with her, because more often than not, she tries to make sure I get a fair shake.  While she has very little say in the rules that get made, there’s little doubt of who is actually in charge in the WPA office…. and it isn’t Dr. Wheel ‘n Deal, or the new WPA (who I haven’t met and won’t make fun of until I have good reason to.)

I handed her said syllabuses and she asked if I had heard that the department was looking for faculty to take on an extra course in the fall — as “overage” (this means a five course load instead of four, for which the instructor will get supplemental pay). I answered that I did. She asked if I was interested.


“Really?” she asked, though she didn’t seem too surprised. “Why?  If you don’t me asking.”

“Because,” I said, “they wouldn’t need people to take on extra classes if they hadn’t treated instructors and FA’s (part-timers, for those who don’t know the ASU jargon) like crap last year. ” (FYI: ASU got rid of most of the FA’s at the end of the Fall semester last year, and thinned the ranks of Instuctors this year. The good news is, the department chair did such a good job screwing everybody over that he’s on paid sabbatical this year.) “Also,” I said, “my time is valuable to me.” (And it is.)

She nodded like she understood. She went on to try and tell me -half-heartedly – that even if they hadn’t cut the FA’s and thinned the number of instructors, that there would still be a staffing shortage. Then she said, “There’s also a call out for Winter Intersession.” (These are 3 week online classes taught between the Fall and Spring semesters. I’m not sure there’s any educatational merit to them… but it pays the same as overage.)

“I’ll do that.”

Yes. I don’t mind the intercession classes because it’s not very taxing, and the extra money around the holidays helps us to balance the ever precarious Parsons Clan Finances.  I won’t take an extra class in the Fall because that should be somebody else’s  bread and beer.

Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of spineless instructors/lecturers who don’t object to screwing over their fellow educator.  I’ve seen this cannibalism first hand, so I know they exist. 

After a little more chit chat, I tipped my hat and said I’d see her around. “See you,” she smiled. “Enjoy your time.” I turned to see the expression on her face when she said it.  She was being earnest.

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