It wasn’t really a secret anyway, so I’m just going to come right out and admit it. I’ve got a problem with authority. I dislike feeling like I have a boss, and that is probably partly why I like having an academic position. I am fortunate to have a direct superior that does not act like ‘the boss’ in any way that is bothersome, however- there are parts of my job that sometimes feel like I have to report to the authorities, and that includes paperwork that sometimes feels like bullshit paperwork. Or is it?
You know what I’m talking about- it is those Annual Faculty Activity Reports. I suppose we all have to do them. For those of you not in the know- these are those pesky and lengthy reports that we faculty fill out every year and hand over to the authorities (chairpeople… I adore you). These documents are a long reporting of everything we have done, accomplished, and taken part in during the previous year. This report typically includes some standard categories:
1. Research/Scholarly activity:
- Grants current, pending and planned.
- Papers in prep, submitted, and published, collaborations etc., Book chapters, and sometimes
- Meeting and poster abstracts.
- Active Collaborations
- (SADLY, there is no category for blogging YET!)
- Graduate students trained,
- Undergraduates mentored,
- Graduate/undergraduate/medical school courses taught (of course this varies with dept.)
- Thesis committees that you are serving on.
- Committee service- departmental, college, and in my case university and system, as well as state, national etc.
- Editorial Boards, Advisory Committees, Ad hoc reviewer
- Programs and Symposia organized
4. Professional Development
- Meetings, Workshops attended
- CE done/attended
5. Major Accomplishments
6. Explanation of problems or circumstances that prevented you from reaching your stated goals for that year.
7. Goals and Objectives for the next academic year.
Now, I hate bullshit paperwork as much as the next person, in fact when I started I really disliked doing these reports, and I did a crappy job on them. I felt, you know, as though I was being micromanaged by the authorities. But I’m going to suggest that these annual reports do not fall into the category of BS paperwork. In fact, it is very, very important to make this document as complete, detailed, and correct as possible.
Why,… I hear you cry! Because next year- or more importantly in 7 years, no one- including your chairperson.. or anyone on the promotion and tenure committee will remember what you did UNLESS YOU WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Writing it all down in what will feel like nauseating, tooting-your-own-horn detail-, (and perhaps a little like bitching and complaining around the edges in a nice way – see category 6.) is the only thing that will protect you, and the only way you can advocate for yourself when you are not in the room and those people making decisions about you are otherwise left to go on their memories alone. Help them to have an accurate memory of what all you did in each year. And make sure you fill out those last three sections- esp. #6!
I’ve done a few of these now, and I learned very quickly to make them as detailed as possible. In fact, I’m thinking of some more creative ways to fit things in that I do, that I have to do if I want things to proceed in a timely way- but that aren’t really my job. Let’s take the X zillion hours I have spent dealing with facilities issues that should be totally and completely under my radar, just for starters. Dealing with these issues takes quite a bit of my time, but I don’t get credit for them anywhere unless I make a place. Let’s say under SERVICE. and let’s say under ‘explanation of problems/circumstances that prevented you from reaching your stated goals’.
Another reason why it is important to pay close attention to what you write in these reports- is that you will probably have a sit-down annual meeting with your chairperson, to discuss your performance, … based largely… you guessed it… on WHAT IS IN YOUR ANNUAL REPORT. I’ve seen this go awry- when junior faculty don’t carefully elaborate exactly what they have done in these reports- then the little report that the chairperson writes back in response to your report/meeting… called an annual evaluation- can be off, way off. And you do not want this to happen to you because it becomes a permanent part of your record! Fortunately, in many places you get to see that annual evaluation, and you may get to comment on it, point out any inaccuracies,… before you sign it to acknowledge that you have seen it and that what is in it is correct.
These reports are not bullshit paperwork, and it is so, SO important to get them right… can anyone say PROMOTION AND TENURE?!