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Sunday, August 28, 2011

the calm before the storm...and confessions of the squall-ble

I'm not proud of this, but I know that I can store only so much frustration before it bursts forth in all its self-righteous fury.

Liz was entirely too politic (my assertion) in her last entry. I was violent during Liz's half-hour meeting with the Associate Vice Provost and we now have a meeting tomorrow morning with the Provost to essentially "call the question" of whether the "university" is going to direct its institutional divisions to support the SUSTAIN learning initiative or whether we need to send the money back to the National Science Foundation.

The issue: Key managers in the university feel they are already under-resourced and thus refuse to allow their staff to complete the scheduling work needed for the learning initiative unless the provost and/or president directs them to make it a priority and do so.

My self-righteous fury: All grants have a tax of 37-40% on direct costs which is collected by someone on campus and used for "indirect costs." The SUSTAIN-related grants have brought roughly $140K into the university in the last year or so, specifically for administrative support and other indirect costs associated with the research.

As Roger says, the system is broken.

We have been working for two years to lay the foundation for this simple experiment in learning...something that any university should be doing in an on-going basis, in my opinion. But as Liz indicated, the university system is not set up to innovate, it is set up to deliver, on a consistent basis, in the most efficient way, the same results. Much of higher ed has become like get the same meal wherever you are, of questionable or even harmful quality for those who ingest it.

You might hear my anger in this entry. I can certainly feel it in my typing of this entry.  I'm violently stabbing the qwerty keyboard as I write :)

I was irresponsible in my fury with the Assoc. VP: In the moment of her saying she would not cooperate, I felt the rush of my anger in my body. It welled up from somewhere deep inside and was concentrated in my face. I'm sure if you were to videotape this event, you could see my sitting position move forward, my forehead change, my rate and volume of speaking increase. I could see all this happening but I did not choose...I habitually unleashed the energy, even though my spoken words were supportive and acknowledging of her dilemma.

I am working toward seeing the feelings as if I am experiencing a "cool breeze," as Roger know that it is a breeze, not "me," to choose whether or not I was to "animate" the energy.  This would be more responsible. I am afraid that what I did required an apology (which I gave and was accepted).

The storm tomorrow at 9:00 AM with the provost: It is very unlikely that we will fold. Admittedly, this was a kind of empty threat on my part, but it seems that the obstructionist parts of the university must now be addressed.  It would be irresponsible and unethical to begin recruiting students. We also need to be responsible in our relationship with the community partners.  So, tomorrow we discover whether the provost will direct those "beneath him" in the hierarchy to prioritize our research.

The danger as I see it:  I regretfully did another tarot reading about this yesterday. I am loathe to admit it because I suspect people might think I am a nutter.  But I do hide in the comfort of our NSF program officer saying that he often does a tarot reading for important decisions: it helps him see things from another point of view. For me, I do it to surface my things that I am unconscious to.

The tarot reading revealed a danger: the arrogance around our commitment to this work.  If we go into the meeting with a belief that we are "right" and the university is "wrong," I'm afraid that this will be our undoing. Between now and tomorrow morning, I need to find a place of compassion.

Oh,  for those of you for whom this might mean something...the outcome for the tarot reading was The Tower  (oh no!...not the Tower!  Why not the High Priestess?  Where is she when you need her?)


  1. Thanks Linda for you honesty....I am positive your insight about releasing our commitment is the right disposition. Remember what Roger and Bill said...this is it. It is not with the 100 students, it is this. We are already here, learning and loving and growing and healing.

  2. I think we all can often confuse our own intentions as we get dee

  3. [Sorry about the incomplete comment above, I was trying to do it on my phone but it didn't work -- or I didn't work.]

    I think we all can, at times, confuse our own intentions in these situations with ones that we think others might ascribe to us. My sense is that we are not primarily undertaking this program for ourselves (there are other things we could do to make us happier -- including completely checking out). Rather, we want better things for everyone else. Yes, people might think that we "want" a lot of stuff -- just like everyone else -- but we are doing it to improve faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction and even staff satisfaction (not to mention community satisfaction). Our difficulty is that we have to expend some energy through explanation or example (or patience) how this experiment helps everyone, not just us. So, getting frustrated is normal but we still perservere -- that is why we work as a group by watching each other's back and showing those outside that this is not a single Don Quixote tilting at windmills but a whole passel of Don Quixotes who are tilting at something real but the others just haven't recognized it yet!