In my experience, the first truly bad experience with any new academic job is orientation. Think back to your own, and I'm betting you'll agree with me. While there's a ton of things to complain about - there is, for example, invariably someone with hyper-specific questions and tedious back story to the question. Really, it's like any class you've ever taught or attended, ever. That might explain why it's so frustrating to attend them when they often seem so poorly thought out.

But rather than spend much time worrying about those things, I want to offer some quick suggestions to make orientation a bit more useful, rather than the enormous time-suck that they so often are. So with that in mind, here's what I need from an orientation:
  • enough time in advance of the term to make use of the information given
  • a comparison of the benefits and costs of each
  • someone who can actually answer my benefits questions (it's interesting that at every orientation I've had, the HR reps seem to actively fear answering benefits questions - is it a legal thing?)
  • any specific language that's expected in my syllabi (for example: plagiarism policies, disability policies, departmental objectives, etc)
  • how to get my parking decal and ID
  • my e-mail id and how to contact IT
  • a brief profile of the student population
  • a copy of the faculty handbook and an explanation of who to go to with questions
  • a copy of the campus directory
What I don't need from an orientation:
  • a parade of people
  • a meeting with different groups whose benefits options differ (honestly, do you need to rub adjunct noses into discussions of health care, etc?)
  • meetings that involve decision making about long-term university projects or anything that has a context an incoming freshman couldn't intuit
  • people talking about things that I won't be dealing with in the first two weeks (for example: study abroad). And if they must be there, then they should speak for a minimum amount of time
  • acronyms and buzzwords
  • references to policies that are no longer in effect
  • references to web pages without a written URL
  • references to forth-coming e-mails
  • discussions of teaching that include the phrase "I'd never do what I'm doing now in the classroom" or anything similar
I think that's a pretty good start. I'm probably missing some, though. Thoughts?


2 Responses to “DisOrientation”
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Notorious Ph.D. said...

Another don't: Icebreaker games and/or team-building exercises.

September 8, 2009 at 7:06 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I'm actually okay with a single icebreaker or team building exercise if they're appropriate.

If it was just a departmental meeting, a team building exercise would be hokey but appropriate. But in a general meeting, not so much. What kills me the ice breakers is that you have to do them over and over for each group of folks who are shepherded through.

I'd add, too, that you should only brag about something once. New parking? Great. Don't make it the focus of things, though, or it starts to make you wonder about all the things that aren't being mentioned.

September 10, 2009 at 2:45 PM