November 18, 2008


It's the season where several people I know are updating their binders. If you're in the higher ed game, you know what I mean. You have to collect documentation of every little thing you've done over the last five years in order to prove yourself worthy of retaining the job you've been holding for the last five years.

I'm all about evidence-based decision making (all evidence to the contrary), but the process is kind of absurd. I have people coming to me and asking for letters to thank them for their service on an ad hoc committee that met maybe three times, four years ago. On the other hand, having reviewed activity reports FROM PEOPLE I'D NEVER MET who claimed to have served on a committee I WAS CHAIRING, I can see how documentary evidence can be a good thing. Still, I think you need to put a weight limit on this binder.

Back at Former Employer U, we had to put together something like 17 copies of our binder. Ridiculous. At Staples, the day before the applications were due, I ran into a colleague in the binder aisle. She looked at my armload of binders disparagingly. She was going for the nice ones ... the brand name ones. We chatted a bit, uncomfortably; it's hard not to feel competitive under such circumstances ... there are only so many promotions to go around, after all. Then she said something that took me by surprise, and she said it very bitterly, very sarcastically, very--dare I say--inconsistently with Our Institution's Holy Mission:

"Of course, you'll be fine. You're the Golden Boy."

I'm the what now? That really blew my mind. I've never been the Golden Boy. Hell, I'm an only child and I still felt like I was in some kind of losing competition for my parents' esteem. And I'd always fancied myself as something of a pain in the administration's ass, a gadfly if you will. An enfant terrible, maybe, but certainly not a wunderkind.

It was the most offensive compliment I'd received.


Rosemary said...

Ew...I can see why you ran away from there! I'm sure you mentioned in your interview with your current institution that you were considered the "Golden Boy" of FEU. That sealed the deal, I betcha.

JB said...

To be fair, I have to say that the students and faculty there--at least the ones who hadn't drunk the kool-aid--were wonderful.