the blind leading the blind

Tonight I participated in one of our residence hall’s “dinner in a dorm” events. This is actually my second time, but it was different because I was invited by one of my lovely students. Previously, when I — along with other new faculty — attended a similar event, I was paired with a hall official. Such arrangements are referred to as “blind dates” by the students.

The premise behind the event is that faculty get to see the students “other side” by touring their dorm, learning about the traditions, and talking outside of the classroom. Inevitably, I learn a lot more than just this. Most of all I learn just how little students know about the “other side” of faculty’s lives. Until occasions like this, they often don’t realize that we have children and partners or that we actually live in this city year-round ( believe it or not!) and (gasp!) work during school breaks. Those little TCE’s (and yeah, that’s what the year-end course evaluations that look a little like standardized tests are called) should not incite maniacal laughter as students think about how they used one to really “stick it to that jerk.” In fact, they aren’t at all funny to us and, at least as the local lore suggest, actually matter. The students don’t know what tenure is, why we want it, or what we have to do to get it. They are adamantly opposed, though, to any policy that doesn’t allow people to get fired (‘cuz that just isn’t right!). They also know very little about the city, other than where the airport, Target, Chipotle, and the bars are.

Although most “real” blind dates are more comfortable than these awkward affairs, I’ll keep going to them if I’m invited. It’s important to me that, at the end of the night, they’ve learned as much about us as we have about them. Of course… that assumes that they’re the kind of blind dates who aren’t too wrapped up in themselves to listen (sigh).

9 thoughts on “the blind leading the blind”

  1. Sometimes I’m amazed at the rationalizations we construct for a policy that doesn’t allow people to get fired. (This does not preclude my reveling in it.)

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  2. My alma mater had a residential college system where all students were assigned to a college when they entered and, throughout our tenure at the University, remained affiliated with that college. The really cool thing about was that all faculty and staff (as well as community member who were most often, but not always, alumni) were also allowed to participate in the residential college system and be assigned one of the colleges as associates of that college. They could eat in the colleges for free (well, the college budget was charged), come to all of our college events and often invited us to their houses.

    It was really great for several reasons. First, I think that there was a lot more genuine interaction between faculty members, staff and students that led–I think–to a much more collegial environment. Second, since we often were invited to associates’ houses once or twice a year, we got off of campus. Last, it provided opportunities to meet people and build networks. In fact, I owe my acceptance to grad school (and not feeling entirely lost after getting here) to one of these faculty associates (actually, she even lived on campus and was in charge of working with our college government to make sure that our college ran smoothly).

    It seems like, done right, that is what the “blind dates” could do if they were a little more regular and not quite so awkward!

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  3. Mike: my alma mater (and I believe there is at least one other banana slug hanging out on this blog) also had a college system, and I agree that it worked amazingly well. The faculty regularly hung around the cafes in the colleges, and we students were often invited into the provost’s and preceptors’ homes right there next to ours. It definitely built community that included faculty, staff and students.

    The fantastic weather there may have also contributed by calling everyone outdoors most all the year, but what can you do about that?

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  4. GO Slugs! I was Kresge. It was the best. Hello, Santa Cruz: February is a good time to recruit faculty away from Chicago.

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  5. My employer has just chosen to transition into a residential college system–news to me after I had already accepted (what I thought was) a job at an R1. I am not alone in feeling the pressure to make more hours in the day so that I can simultaneously meet the longstanding evaluative emphasis on research, and the emerging service emphasis of a residential college system. Perhaps once such a system exists, it is delightful for all parties (cf. Tina, mike 3550), but right now I see many disadvantages, at least for junior faculty.

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  6. Though the original post seems to be largely tongue-in-cheek, as an undergraduate student (and frequent scatterplot reader, btw! You all do a fantastic job — thank you) I thought I might chime in that many of us expend a lot of effort helping to keep our university libraries busy during the summer; take our professor evaluations very seriously; and *might* even — though doubtless after many, many, extremely disarming meetings with a professor’s “real life” — be convinced that it’s not all some confusing Gestalt illusion. That last might be a promise we can’t keep, though!

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  7. While we’re still on this thread, I should add in response to jlena that a lot of things at UCSC were really great for undergrads, but must have been miserable for faculty (e.g., narrative evaluations instead of grades). I didn’t mean to imply that it was a picnic for the faculty, but it sure was great for us students.

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