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Notably Quoted

It’s good for an artist to try things. It’s good for an artist to be ridiculous.
Sheila Heti in How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life (p. 18)

« Not As Young As I Once Was | Main | Elvis Has Left the Building »

Batshit Crazy

Before being nudged, not-so-gently, into retirement, Dr. Teller had spent the last ten years of his academic career as a community-college dean. The final position lasted for seven, interminably-long and difficult years at a junior college in California’s Bay Area.

Teller had come to believe that the life of an academic dean was: Just. Plain. Fucking. Nuts. The most frequent question that coursed through his brain was “why am I here?” Surely this wasn’t an existence that any truly healthy person would take on – other than from a sense of desperation.

The fact was, though: Teller had been desperate. The offer that ultimately came his way emerged after three-plus years of interim positions and a lifestyle of never-ending job-search. When he lost his state-level higher-education post in Oregon, he had been forced to seek out something else to do with his life. When the opportunity arose to be a college dean, he thought, “why not?” And after two temporary gigs in his home state, the California job seemed to provide him some sense of direction, resolution and permanency.

But while he was quite experienced with, and even amazingly skillful at, managing the highly-political nature of academia, the navigation of community-college campus-level politics turned out to be somewhat akin to living in the “Twilight Zone.” It was as if Rod Serling had come back to provide the script and narration for Teller’s time on this planet.

Of the 112 community colleges in the California community-college system, Teller ended up working at one of the smaller ones. And as it turned out, it had a quite-specific statewide reputation. Not that he knew anything about that when he moved there, of course.

But the reputation was discoverable and, in the end, indisputable: the place was batshit crazy.

To wit:

  • The collective-bargaining agreement between the faculty and the institution was an absurdly-long and complicated document. It was poorly-written, internally-contradictory, maddeningly-prescriptive, and reflected decades worth of administrative concessions. It served as the college’s Bible. It was, indisputably, batshit crazy.
  • The Board of Trustees was a self-absorbed, totally-dysfunctional body, prone to micromanagement, lack of boundaries, role confusion, internal strife, senseless speech-making, and meetings that lasted until midnight. Individually, and collectively, they were the very essence of batshit crazy.
  • The collection of department chairs, a gang that convened monthly, consistently and vigorously attacked anyone unlucky enough to have the title of vice president. They truly believed that the world revolved around them. The group was distinguished by its inability to move any agenda along and famous for its failure to acknowledge (what the rest of the world might call) “reality.” Individually, and collectively, an easy call: batshit crazy.
  • Overt and covert conflicts between faculty members and administrators were frequent, mean-spirited, and embarrassing for any innocent bystander to witness. The dynamic was full-on batshit crazy.
  • The door to the vice president’s office was a revolving one, hosting seven different occupants during Teller’s time there. Some were laughably inept. At least two were verbally and/or emotionally abusive. One was middle-twentieth-century sexist. One was certifiably batshit crazy.
  • Stories of bad behavior by faculty members were legendary, provided a mystical aura to the institution, and wove the fabric of the college’s culture. The campus employed several who had been there for decades and had long ago given up pretending to care about students. Teller believed that a certain percentage of them had substance-abuse or mental-health issues, and assessed this faction to be, unquestionably, batshit crazy.

Still, despite all the evidence in support of its reputation, Teller had not planned on leaving the college when he did. His departure, ultimately, came as a big surprise to him. The interim vice president, who had once been among Teller’s most-trusted allies on campus, had apparently drunk the Kool-Aid too many times. Acting as an agent of the president, she was the one who informed Teller that his time on campus was over.

He was devastated by the betrayal.

When all was said and done, Teller probably should have seen it coming. But he didn’t.

The evidence is there to support the notion that Dr. Teller, himself, had gone native.

In other words: batshit crazy.

Soundtrack Suggestion

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
And I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know…

[“Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye]

Reader Comments (1)

Every college that I have attended or worked at fits the Batshit Crazy model of political backstabbing: Administrators and Faculty constantly warring; Faculty and Department Chairs in-fighting; Deans and Department Chairs at each others throats; Classified Staff and Administrators undermining each other; Maintenance and Grounds Crews lobbing verbal bombs at each other; and, Human Resource Departments hiding behind rules that suit them and making up new rules when it suits their purposes. Not to mention tenured versus non-tenured Faculty and Grad Assistants.

If you're not crazy when you become employed you either soon will be or at the very least you will learn to keep your head down and try to squeeze out one more contract for yourself.
March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterThurman Holder

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