sh!t my dean says

I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to post this, but I will anyway. If my university notices and has a problem with it, I’ll suggest that it’s saving our insurance provider hundreds of dollars in therapy costs.

Justin Halpern used his father to document advice and publish it in books and webpages with the appropriate title, “Shit My Dad Says.” I found the book in the bookstore and have perused the “useful” advice on the tumblr feed. At first, it’s just crude, then it has this layer of wit, and often it’s so incredibly insightful I wish I could quote it in an article or in class.

I have no belief that a “Sh!t My Dean Says” (or any “boss” in place of “dean” title) would sell more than a couple of books. I’m not sure that I’d even buy one, even if I wrote it. Deans are not as charming as dads, nor is their advice typically so useful as:

Stop trying so hard. He doesn’t like you. Jesus, don’t kiss an ass if it’s in the process of shitting on you.

from Shit My Dad Says archive, 27 April 2010

I have yet to hear any dean say anything as useful or profound.

Lots of things my dean says are what all deans say. Maybe it’s what they learn at deans’ school. One example is that there is a “pipeline” that we must engineer for students to move from their schoolings to their workings. I hate the pipeline metaphor, but I’m okay with it in the same way that I have to be okay when people say “sunrise” to describe the rotation of the earth. Well, maybe.

There are other things, though, like today when he iterated the following single run-on sentence:

What do you guys think I guess what I’m thinking is that …

What gets me is that it wasn’t a question, nor even a pause or an opportunity for discussion. It was a statement that didn’t immediately care for input. A nice way to frame a conversation could be, “I guess I’m thinking that … What do you guys think?” Or, I’m particularly fond of, “What do you guys think?” followed by the silence that many of us in Western culture have come to understand as a moment in which we will generate more ideas, discussion, and even collaboration.

This style of conversation frustrates me. So, I find therapy in writing things down that sound strange to me, and then I find that seeing things in print helps validate the frustration. I feel better when I can write down these gems. (It’s a non-comprehensive list of an ongoing series.*)

  • “I just have one more comment to make.” This is followed by a “comment,” which generally goes on for about one dean-unit of time. This is followed by “… and the other thing…” and another unit of dean-time.
  • During discussion about teaching with a group of faculty who have been teaching at our university for a collective of approximately 500 years: “If you start thinking about this a little more deeply …” as if no one has ever put thought into said topic before.
  • Dean makes a point that I don’t fully agree with. I try to articulate a different point that offers a contrast to the dean-point. “That’s what I’m saying,” he tells me.

My boss is a good guy. He means well; he’s smart; he has ambitions to make the university a better place. But I can’t always keep up with what he’s going to say next, nor can I please him. So maybe I’ll take Justin’s dad’s advice and just “stop trying so hard.”

*Even though there’s no market for such a book, I wonder if a tumblr blog with a community of contributions exemplifying dean quotes would generate responses? Maybe we could all use that kind of therapy.


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