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School’s out for summer: the trials and tribulations of academic life


I’m sure that every academic hears a version of the same conversation every May or June.

Non-academic: So what do you do?

Me: I teach philosophy at Felician College. In Lodi. Well, we have another campus in Rutherford.

Non-academic: Oh, so you’re off for the summer?

Me: Well…[followed by convoluted and unsuccessful explanation]

I’ve just had a version of this conversation with my barber, my banker, my doctor, and (for the nth time in about two decades) my parents. Here are some of the follow-ups to my attempted explanation (these are verbatim, I’m not making them up, though I’m making some strategic omissions):

Barber: Hey–you need a summer job? I’ll hire you.

Banker: So obviously you’ll be opening up a second business to supplement your income during the summer. I just want you to know that Chase has excellent business banking options for your second business. And they operate out of this branch. I’m sorry, I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is… [PS: I can’t help but be tickled by the assumption that Felician is my first business.]

Doctor: So great–now’s the time to take off those extra pounds! I mean you’re not that overweight as these things go, but you can stand to lose some…I mean, it’s just healthier to be closer to n pounds than you are right now….

Mom: You’re on vacation nowadays so why can’t you visit more often?

Dad: I don’t understand why you seem so busy when you really have nothing to do.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here are the first ten work-related emails that I received in my Felician inbox within the last 48 hours:

1. From the Dean of Arts and Sciences: Please respond to query by outside reviewer for Middle States Self-Study.

2. From the Registrar: Advising will begin for 61 confirmed students on Tuesday, June 18. Please report to…

3. From Associate Dean of Off-Campus and Non-Traditional Programs: Please review and finalize the fall 2013 schedule.

4. From FYE Coordinator: Please review spring 2013 FYE evaluations.

5. From Assistant Dean of Instructional Technologies: Please consider attending a hands-on workshop for using the eCompanion platform.

6. From Faculty Secretary: Please consider membership on one of the following standing committees.

7. From liaison for assessment: I have not received your assessment plan. Please advise.

8. From Dean of Arts and Sciences: Please be sure to review and sign your performance evaluation and submit it ASAP.

9. From an academic at another institution: Would you be interested in participating in a festschrift conference for…?

10. From PR coordinator at Al Quds University, Jerusalem: We would like to know whether you would be interested in delivering three lectures during your time here in Jerusalem… (i.e., ten days from now).

Obviously, then, this is the best description of my predicament as an indolent academic.  (I’d insert it, but I don’t have Playlist Editor on my office computer. And frankly, it works better if you click without knowing what you’re getting yourself into.)



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