Going to the mailbox to retrieve and examine an annual evaluation usually isn’t a big deal at my university. Over the last few years, professors have seen few pay-raises. When we do get one, it is rarely enough to cover the increases in our parking stickers and health insurance. But, of course, the administrators live like royalty. One might say that the UNC system is the closest thing to a fiefdom in 21st century America.
But this year I discovered that some annual evaluations penalized professors for failing to attend faculty parties. That could interfere with those professors who wait tables for spare change on the weekends. I’m joking of course but check back in a few years to see if my prediction comes true.
After I spoke with a couple of attorneys (for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) about some of the legal implications of using such criteria, I realized that such vague “collegiality” factors were being used in other states like New York, Indiana, and California.
The decision to write an editorial on the subject meant that I would risk getting no pay-raise in a few weeks when the change was divided up in my department. But writing an editorial exposing the practice would bring some badly needed attention to the often overlooked “collegiality” issue. Justice Brandeis once said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. So, I wrote the editorial, of course.
In examining my own evaluation, I also discovered that there was a false statement claiming I had attended no departmental meetings during the fall semester. I contacted the interim chair and had her remove that false statement. She did so and even apologized.
But, then, I decided to write another editorial lambasting my university for making any reference to my attendance at departmental meetings. That was because I had been told by the university police to avoid a certain faculty member who seemed to think I was poisoning her with tear gas.
I discussed the absurdity of the situation with one of America’s most famous defense attorneys who practices in Boston. He characterized it as a classic Catch-22. “You had better attend those department meetings with your fellow professors, Dr. Adams” and “You need to stay away from that delusional professor (who attends department meetings), Dr. Adams” were incompatible demands. I think that after three and a half years, it’s time for the university to make a call one way or the other.
And that was another dilemma. If I wrote a critical editorial, I would risk getting no pay-raise. If I didn’t respond and just signed off on the evaluation, I couldn’t live with myself. So I wrote the editorial, of course.
As crazy (literally) as all of this is, the situation is even worse. There was another comment on the evaluation stating that my “political” speeches and columns were causing what would “appear” to be a reduction in my research productivity. I was specifically admonished to pick up the pace of my publications in refereed or “scholarly” journals.
To provide some context, I was told by my superiors (in 1993 when I took this job) that we are an undergraduate teaching institution and that we needn’t publish a refereed article every year to get tenure, promotions, and decent pay-raises. Nonetheless, I published a refereed article last year (though it was backdated to 2003). In fact, I published one the year before. Indeed, over the course of the last ten years, I published nine refereed articles spread out among several disciplines (I was only here nine years as I was on leave for a year).
In light of the remark about my productivity, it dawned upon me to do some research concerning the productivity of my colleagues. I started with the last year and found only five refereed publications in the entire department, which is about one out of every three faculty members. And so I kept on looking.
Interestingly, I examined a few years worth of records and couldn’t find one in which a simple majority of the faculty had published in a refereed forum. In other words, there was no downward trend on my behalf and I certainly wasn’t pulling down the departmental average. There was simply a prolonged record of publishing at a higher rate than my colleagues. Facts are stubborn things.
So, of course, I decided to do a full analysis of the last twelve years and publish the results in an editorial.
But then my little project was interrupted. I got an email from an administrator saying it appeared that we would all be getting a fixed salary increase this year. In other words, the evaluation could say that I was an axe murderer and I would still get the same increase as anyone else.
So what was really nothing but a silly attempt to punish me for speaking critically of the diversity movement (oh, the tolerance of diverse ideas!) would have to be put on hold for another year.
But, the story gets even better than that. I got another email from a reader praising my first editorial on the issue of collegiality. It was accompanied by an invitation to speak on that and similar issues. And, wouldn’t you know it, the price offered for the speech was double my pay-raise for this year.
People often ask me how I deal with university leftists who are so hostile to my views. And now you know. If you ever forget, just re-read “Life and how to live it (Parts I, II, and III).” It’s been a pleasure sharing my adventures but I have to go smoke a cigar and buy another gun.
See you next week in the theater of the absurd. It plays on every channel here at UNCW. And someone seems to have stolen the remote.