Saturday, January 09, 2010

My New Phase and a Wishlist

Over at In the Middle, Jeffrey is posting about the new phase in his professional life, as he steps down from being head of department. Almost to the day, I am stepping up to a new phase in mine, as I take on the role of head of programme (English and Theatre) within a large school (Culture and Communication), within a large Faculty (Arts).

I haven't moved offices, but last week I did go in and start cleaning it up. It wasn't too bad, as I'd cleared some shelves and obvious surfaces because other folk were using my room while I was on leave. But I managed to fill a big paper recycling bin; and there's another pile waiting for the confidential recycling bin. And that's without really tackling the big piles of photocopies I should file properly. I'm finding it hard to throw away the files of Chaucer material I used for the Chaucer book. And I have lots of files left over on Gwen Harwood and Wynnere and Wastoure, too. Perhaps I'll just do this a bit at a time. All the Garter stuff is at home, as I never really do any research or writing in my office at work.

Jeffrey says he likes to position his desk at a bit of an angle, and seems to like the way it throws people off-guard. In my girly way, I'm making different kinds of resolutions, about keeping my office clean and tidy so it looks reassuringly calm, and sometimes putting fresh flowers in there. Or at least having a plant of some kind. Or perhaps a fish?

The emails have already started coming in, along with what I think I'll like least about this job: the regime of bureaucratic compliance. I'm also hoping not to do bureaucratic emails at night or over the weekend (though I've just now received one...).

I think there'll be lots of fun things, too, but the biggest challenge was made crystal clear to me when I went to talk to our manager about our budget. Our program is short-staffed, but our budget is school-based. So even though our Old English specialist has just left, and even though our C16/C17 person left last year to move full-time into administration, so that I am the only researcher working prior to the eighteenth century, our program, as such, is in debt, because we don't run any lucrative masters coursework programs. We have fabulous theatre people, and others who can also teach Shakespeare, but it would be wonderful to make a dedicated teaching/research appointment in early modern literature.

This state of affairs isn't so much the result of the "Melbourne model" — the dramatic reform of the entire university's curriculum — as it is a result of the funding model (the result of the progressive reductions in federal funding), and the move from departments into larger schools. As a result, although "English" used to be closely linked to other programs (Media and Communication; Cultural Studies; Creative Writing; and Publishing), we are all now disaggregated into discrete units in the larger school, which also includes cinema, art history, arts management, etc. etc. The funding model we inherit from Faculty breaks us up into smaller units, and so our challenge, as a School, is to find fair and equitable ways to think about cross-subsidising. Just as we expect the medical faculty to subsidise arts, for example...

There has been a bit of a shift, over the last ten years, in Australia, for universities to work much harder at attracting private donations. Areas such as medieval and renaissance literature have been the target of a number of donations in the past, donations that go to fund small postgraduate scholarships, for example.

My dream scenario? Some wonderful benefactor to endow a chair in Shakespeare/early modern studies at the University of Melbourne. I'm just saying...

5 comments:

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Good luck with your new phase!

I know I kidded about my off kilter desk, and it is a kind of disorientation device, but the angle also helps to erode the "I am behind here and you are on the other side" feel of a desk as a straightforward line of demarcation. That is, it actually opens up a gap by being on an angle, and I hope is more welcoming than I mean it to be.

I have piles of files and no file cabinet, yet. While I wait for that to arrive I am going through them and purging. Some of the material goes back to graduate school. Sometimes I can't let it go. At other times it is a pleasure to let those old pieces of me leap into the recycling bin!

As to the endowed chair ... good luck! I continue to work on two similar projects ... for me, being chair was all about fundraising, and I can't walk away from some project in progress.

Stephanie, I know you'll be terrific at this new job.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thank you, my dear: you are very kind.

As it happens, tonight, on our third time through the entire West Wing, we have just watched C.J. take over from Leo as chief of staff. P and J were laughing at my hysterical over-identification, especially when Carol brought in Gayle (the goldfish). At one point, CJ was clearly unable to go and sit behind Leo's desk, and chaired the meeting from in front...

I used to have my desk to the window, and my back to the door, which used to throw people a little. Now I sit behind a desk, at right angles to the door. But the room is big enough for me to move out from behind the desk and go and sit with a visitor in the more comfy chairs.

When I get organised, I'll post some photos: it's actually a very nice room.

The endowed chair is pretty much a wish-fulfilment fantasy. But it would be wonderful!

Must ... keep ... purging...

Ceirseach said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful? Especially if the focus was not just Shakespeare but cultural/literary lines back into the late mediaeval and forward through to the Restoration.

Felicitously, the verification word? 'invento'.

Elisabeth said...

Hi stephanie
I trawled through those words under labels, the old ones to look for a connection to find Robin Hood, only to discover you've taken off the trailer. Given the circumstances, too many horses hooves blaring, I understand. So never mind. I look forward to seeing the new Robin Hood whenever it surfaces into my view. I've been passionate about the story - myth? - since I was a child.

Good luck with your new job. Academia scares me a little - all that bureaucracy - but it's probably no different from anywhere else.

crapcyclelanes said...

I am in another part of the Uni and we have been extremely successful at attracting paying Masters students. My annoyance is more about disappearing professional staff (there one day, poached or gone in 2 weeks), the fact that all paperwork is onerous compared to other universities, and that you have to think about changes to teaching about 9-9 months ahead (but staffing can't be worked out that far ahead!)