June 28th, 2005

krazy koati

Gravel in my pockets

I'm not fired. Neither is anyone else. That's the most important point.

But -- and it seems like everyone knew this was coming without ever saying a word about it -- the department is being converted to a research program. The department was always a small one, with only a handful of tenure-track positions possible, with very few students, and a necessarily multidisciplinary focus so that we couldn't expand the courses offered or hire many people without stepping on a lot of toes, so we all more or less understand the decision, much as we don't like it.

As for the people, nobody's being fired; we'll just be over the coming year divided among the various larger, better-established departments where we seem to fit best, based on what we teach, research, and prefer. I imagine I'll end up in Mathematics, most likely (and I know in passing several of the people there), though Physics is a possibility. The major change, for right now, is when I seek a contract renewal/extension, the people doing the evaluation won't be from the same department who hired me to start with. I imagine I'll do well teaching and I always evaluate well, but it's still unnerving.

I'm doing all right, though. While I'm upset, we all expected it; the logic's been hard to resist for years. While I'm nervous about my future, it's essentially the same nerves I always have.

The meeting was pretty dry, the Dean explaining the decision and what would be done with everyone, academic and non-academic staff. He went around to ask each of us to say what was on our mind, and for the most part it was minor practical concerns or statements of sorrow. One of the graduate students launched into a long, stirring defense of the need for research that never got anywhere near a point nor addressed the economic and academic factors ... and kept discussing the need for the department, and kept discussing it, until finally a bit of tactful rudeness had to be applied to move on to other people.

Trivia: Each command message for the Pioneer 10/11 computers was 22 bits long. Source: Pioneer Odyssey, Richard O Fimmel, William Swindell, Eric Burgess. NASA SP-396.

Currently Reading: Charlie Chaplin And His Times, Kenneth S Lynn.