“I’m sure Marvin would have gone over your basic responsibilities with you, but if there’s anything you would like to know that was not covered, feel free to ask,” Bob said, while taking the paperwork from Dan and nodding after briefly scanning each page, then putting the papers in the file folder on his desk—obviously Dan’s file. “Are you a U.S. Citizen?” he added.
“Yes,” Dan answered, “and I brought my passport and Social Security card in addition to my driver’s license if you’d like to make copies now.”
“That’s great, Dan. Yes, please, just the passport and driver’s license will do nicely.”
“You bet,” said Dan, reaching into his leather portfolio for the passport and retrieving his license from his wallet.
“So, what can I tell you about PEMTI while I make copies of these for your files?” He asked while getting up and going to a small Xerox machine to his right.
“Well, for one thing I’d like to know why the hurry to hire me, if you can tell me.”
“Oh, sure. Our last academic dean quit without giving us notice—wanted to go back to his old job. And there’s no backup, so we were very happy when you applied. We were considering several other candidates, but none with your credentials and law background. Marvin wanted to snap you up before you came to your senses.” He chortled again. “Jaime, the lab tech, wanted the job and has been doing some of the dean’s duties for a week, but he was never considered. He has a two-year degree from La Guardia Community College and, well, even for us, that was unacceptable. He just loves standing in, verifying time cards and the like.”
“Time cards?” Dan queried.
“Didn’t Marvin tell you? One of your responsibilities is verifying time cards every week. Faculty must punch in and out to get paid and get docked if they’re even a minute late or punch out a minute early—at least when Jaime checks them. He loves enforcing the docking of time – done in fifteen minute increments. Someone punches in a minute late, they get docked for a quarter hour. Sixteen minutes late, they lose a half hour—and the same with clocking out early.”
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“I’m afraid not—that order comes from the top and there’s a time clock like the ones used in most factories that everyone needs to punch in—everyone except you, Marvin, the Director of Admissions and me that is. We have one of those in this wing too for the support staff.”
“I’m not docking people fifteen minutes for punching in a minute late. The whole idea of having time clocks for faculty is insulting.”
“Oh, they don’t mind. Only one or two teach as adjuncts at local community colleges—the rest are proprietary business school lifers who are used to the grind. It’s the same everywhere—at least everywhere they’ve been.”
“What about you, Bob?”
“Oh, I’m actually a high school English teacher. I have a masters in English and taught for about ten years before coming to work here. Got tired of the grind—and of having to put up with increasingly unruly students that I had no real power to discipline in my classes. This is much nicer, and the pay is fairly comparable with a lot less stress.”
“What’s Marvin’s background?”
“He’s also a lifer—this is his fifth year here and he has been a director in at least two other schools that I know of. He’s a good guy, really. He’s good to work with and you can trust him—at least you can trust him more than anyone at corporate or at the other schools.” Bob said, chuckling again.
“I guess there’s a lot of turnaround in his position?”
“Yes. School directors can be as mercenary as the owners of these places. But overall, this is not a bad organization—they’re all bottom-line oriented but will leave you alone as long as you do your job. Your challenge is retaining your teachers and keeping students in line. Part of your responsibility is dealing with problem students—in that your job is not that different from a high school dean’s. But it is not nearly as restrictive and student issues should not present a real challenge for you. Your teachers can be more of a problem than some of the students—most keep perfectly good order in their classrooms, but others are, well, weak and whiny and will send students to see you because they are unwilling or unable to deal with them themselves.”
“What are my powers as far as disciplining students or faculty, for that matter?”
“As far as students are concerned, pretty much absolute powers. You can suspend them for a day, a week or a month if they cause problems and they will have to leave. No one will question your judgment on that—unless, of course, you discipline too many and then profits suffer if they don’t come back. But that is very rare—they will all come back, or they will not get their tuition paid for by Uncle Sam and the state, and, in many cases, they also will have their welfare checks taken away if they won’t work or go to school and are able-bodied.” Bob said, earnest, serious, but apparently enjoying the look of disbelief that seemed to blossom on Dan’s face like a rose touched by the first rays of the rising sun.
“What about faculty? Any problems I need to be aware of? What powers do I have to discipline them?” Dan asked, and by this time he began taking notes. He was really grateful for Bob’s candor, though beginning to realize some of the challenges he was going to have to face.
“Well, they’re as mercenary and disloyal as everybody else in this business—if they get a better offer, from another proprietary degree mill or especially from a public school system or a community college, most will bolt. There’s a fair amount of turnover, but frankly, that depends largely on who the dean is and how she or he treats them. Most in my tenure here—and there have been two—you are the third in five years—have not been very effective at working with them or making them feel valued. So they’re a bit gun-shy. They will expect little from you, and, in return, frankly, you can expect more or less the same from them. They will do their job, almost all will teach their classes regularly and pretty well, but that’s as far as it will go. Though I think they will respond well to you—I just have a feeling.”
“What do you mean?” Dan asked.
“Well, you obviously give a shit, and it shows—and they will notice that. Just give them a little time.”
“Thanks, Bob” Dan said, glad for the sentiment but still processing what he was hearing. The unforeseen challenges before him were beginning to look daunting. But he was not afraid of a challenge—like most naïve folks who feel everything is going just fine until the very moment they step right into the abyss. “But I have no experience at this, and it is becoming clear I’ll face challenges I was completely unaware of until now.”
“Don’t worry, Dan. I know you’ll do fine. We’ve had some very experienced burnouts on the job who failed miserably, at least one of whom was nearly tar and feathered before finally getting a hint and moving on. Inexperience is something you will quickly overcome. You have the right tools and attitude, and you will win at least most of them over I think pretty quickly. At least they will respect your background and the fact you have some real credentials, unlike their last dean. Keep in mind that they have no tenure, no union and serve largely at your pleasure. Most of them like their jobs, and this is a much better place than most in this industry. They will depend on you for their livelihoods and though you do not have the power to give them raises or lessen their teaching loads, you can make a great deal of difference in their quality of life here and in how they are valued. If you are fair with them, most will quickly learn to appreciate you.”
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