Monday, March 18, 2013

Conferences

I admit it, I hate conferences.  However; I sign-up and re-attend year after year.  If everyone else gets to run out of the office, so should I.  I think that I hate conferences because I don’t drink.  That’s right, I just figured out the root of my problem, I am bitter and jealous.  I am okay with this bitterness and jealousy factor, but I mitigate it by attending the conference based on my ability to do paperwork months in advance and screwing over a last minute paper work person.  Although I may not be going out and drinking it up, I can still enjoy the peace and quiet away from the halls….but wait, I forgot about being in a building with hundreds of drunks, it’s just now they are my co-workers and other professionals in the field.  <Sigh>.  I still have mixed emotions that I will be returning to work and talking to students about responsible drinking, whereas I have held the head of vomiting co-workers during conferences in the past.

However, conference time always makes me reflect on my favorite and least favorite conference moments.  I particularly enjoyed the drug and alcohol conference that was in New Orleans.  I admit, I didn’t actually attend the conference, but was instead just hanging out in the city.  There was something magical about seeing all the drug and alcohol educators giggling about being able to consume alcohol on a public street.  Now that I think about it, as a graduate student I tagged along to another conference, again I didn’t attend it, but still ran out of the office for a nice trip. Ah! Anything for a pool side drip in the gloomy North West months. The truth is, if you want to be a great mentor, you let a graduate student tag along cheap and sleep on your hotel floor.  If you’re kind, you might give them a pillow, better yet, you might actually try not to step on them when you are getting out of bed.

The last time I was in Orlando I was relegated to the horrible land of the Gaylord.  I kept wandering around lost and confused.  I was also bitter that the day after the joint conference left the hotel restaurant dropped the prices of its hamburgers to $5.00 for a cheerleading conference that was coming in to the facility.  I was also bitter that all the restaurants were closed most of the time and the property was like a military survival camp.  If you wanted to eat you had to walk five miles through Gaylord nothings to get to food.  It was impossible.  In all honesty, my true bitterness with the last Orlando conference and being stuck at the Gaylord was that their pool was near the main walkway.  This meant that all the time I spent in the pool, or at least wanted to spend in the pool, was a bit awkward when I could see my supervisor’s staring at me from the glass walkway.  I overcame this anxiety by remaining in the pool.  I rolled with the assumption that they had to assume that I had attended some of the sessions at SOME point.  Truth be told, I didn’t, I sat in the pool the entire time. Following the Gaylord I spent three days at Disneyworld.  That’s a post in and of itself, but the first thing I did upon getting to Disneyworld as an adult was to call my mother and say “I’m sorry”.  I was sorry that she had ever taken me to Disneyworld as a child, I was sorry if I ever cried, complained, or threw a fit in the middle of Mainstreet U.S.A.  In particular, after one man was about to shake a baby, I knew that Disneyworld certainly was not the happiest place on earth.

I must say, the gays in ACPA have always had a rocking time. Yet, there were a number of times that I was horribly traumatized at the Drag show.  It usually involved some co-worker of mine getting horribly drunk and then being inappropriate.  Just for the record, if only one person is drunk, and it is not the person you are harassing or trying to make out with, it’s not a good time.  In addition, there was a drag show where I was hit with the press on nails of a drag queen.  I should have sued; I did not sign a waiver.

I have also done a shit ton of interviewing for positions and as a candidate. Word of advice, the person sitting across from you in the waiting room is not your enemy.  Also, just because you’re dressed up or wearing a suit, it does not mean that you are the world’s greatest gift to Student Affairs.  Go forth new graduates and fight for a job, but at the end of the day there is a position for most everyone.  It is just a matter of if you end up in California versus Arkansas.    Granted, now that I put it into that kind of perspective, I guess it is a big deal.  You should be scared shitless…they’re all going to laugh at you….wait, no, they’re not.  Yet, having done interviews for schools, I would recommend not showing up to my social, crashing it, and trying to drink as much as you can.  Chances are, unless you were a freaking rock star, after having done thirty interviews in one day, I am not going to remember your name.  I will remember if you show-up to the on-campus and I had to hold your hair when you had to throw up in a corner or be carried out of the social.  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Smashing


Today some of my staff just texted me and asked if I knew who was “smashing” who on the staff.  I initially thought that “smashing” was a term for talking smack about one another.  Apparently, “smashing” has changed into the new term for “hooking-up”, which for those of you even further behind than I, that would be having sexual intercourse with one only select and few occasions.  I was about to say that all college kids are whores, but then I realized I would be repeating myself in that statement.  Oh college.

Every time my staff goes on a retreat or spends a significant amount of time with one another I give the very firm; “Don’t hook-up lecture”.  It’s not because I don’t want the poor kids to hook-up, it’s because of the emotional baggage that comes along with it.  My end game is simply to make staff members who do their rounds, build community, and in the very least talk to each other.  I have seen it happen too many times where the staff hooks up and then I’m left with two staff members bitching and moaning and fighting one another.  Again, I don’t care if they hook-up, but I don’t want the emotional baggage.  Usually I state this very clearly to my staff.  I’m a firm proponent of them hooking up with other staffs, but they need to understand that they are the user, not the other person, and “no, it’s not love”.  That technique has actually worked very well in years past, I usually find a vast number of random student staff who are not mine in my building, they are coming for the hook-up.  I like that because it means that my RA is maintaining his/her staff presence on their floor.  See, it’s about the work for me.  I have no patience for them to come crying to me that So & So doesn't love them and blah.  I think that I have raised a few generations of woman and manizers. 

One of the most satisfactory elements is when the staff members do decide to engage in a long term relationship (more than four days) and they realize they have to come and talk to me about it.  I admit, it’s very awkward for me, but it’s so awkward that I really do try and make the most out of it.  The primary element is to talk to them about alternating rooms that they are sleeping in, you know, so I can again maintain their presence on the floor.  I also will make them vow that no matter how much they hate one another after the relationship ends, they still have to pretend to like one another for the sake of appearances.   There’s actually been many times where they've broken up and I had no idea, hell, even forced those to still do rounds with one another, but I didn't give a shit, I needed them to do a job.  I try very hard to be relationship conscious for those kids and they never seem to appreciate it. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Training


I remember the first year that I was a Hall Director and I organized training.  I was so excited and had all of these great ideas.  I thought that no one in the world had ever thought about incorporating learning outcomes, creating activities that pertained to the job, etc.  Year 1, I remember it well and I was so excited.  I think that I even made door decorations for all of my RA’s AND wrote motivational note cards to them that I would sneak and put up at night.  They would wake up in the morning, after five hours of sleep, rejuvenated and excited to see that I cared about them as a person.  Hell, I even created an entire training theme that I would carry over into the lobby decorations, bulletin boards, and the door decs of my RA’s.   I would also insert two or three game nights where I stayed up with them and we watched movies and I made them popcorn as they worked so hard on their jobs.

Let us fast forward to X number of years later (I admit, I am wee bit embarrassed to say just HOW many years).  I have had enough seniority to wiggle my way out of leading training for the department; rather I giggle every time a new and bright eyed person comes on board and want to lead the process.  Inevitability they always talk about learning out comes and how it’s going to be “better” this year.  I admit, there was a point where I would try and defend the training of the past and try and explain the limitations of what one could during training.  This was also in addition to explaining that about $20,000 was spent on food and if a retreat occurred add on another $15,000.  In all honesty, as the years have gone by, I don’t say anything.  You know what; sometimes the training are hella better than anything I could have done.  Yet, without fail, there is always some level of outrage at how much t-shirts for all the RA’s cost AND no matter what you try and do to prevent it, t-shirt sizes will never align with the actual sizes needed.  I tried having them write the shirt size on their application, as part of their contract, even follow-up e-mails.  Trust me, there is nothing you can do, it will never match-up.

I digress though.  I would say around year three is when I started sitting there thinking to myself “I’ve been through X number of trainings”.  Each year, even though the year had only increased by one, the number of trainings seemed to increase by 3-4.  Fall Training, Spring Training, and Summer Training.  Holy Shit, there are on so many times you can have excitement at making someone cry while doing a Behind Closed Doors Scenario (Oh, let us not forget the yearly genius who always 1) changes the name of BCD or 2) “revolutionizes” how it is run).  …I take that back, there are some fun times in making people cry during behind closed doors, especially when it is about mundane tasks such as a broken pipe, gushing sink, or academic support.  Yet, now I kind of sit there and just stare blankly at the fresh meat who basically just told a kid to go kill himself.  Ah, training. 

However, I’m back on track now, there just comes a point where you say screw the matching door decs and maybe you doodle the RA’s names on a note pad.  I measure the success of an RA training by whether or not the organizer has fitted in a significant amount of “me” time and ends the day by 5:00 p.m.  Or, as a super added bonus, only requires one or two HD’s to be present during the training session, thus giving all the other ones time off.  That’s a successful training, not 2 a.m. popcorn parties when your body clearly needs 8 hours of sleep because you’re old.