South Park Self

immune to your consultations

Well, that was Hellweek, that was. The first week of term is the space in which students are allowed to madly change their minds about their course sign-ups, which means that they're dropping and adding them in all directions. With one hand I construct the schedule of team of about 30 advisors running all-day curriculum-change advice sessions carefully tuned to the erratic and unlikely sine waves of student arrival, while with the other I wrangle said advisors in their adherence to said schedule, since they're almost as erratic and unlikely as students. With one foot I pat them gently on the head in passing to reassure them on their reading of the rules or untangle particularly knotty issues for them. With the other foot I attempt to fend off the stream of students sent up to my office having baffled their advisors beyond the point of recovery, and distentangle their tangled curricula with my nose, eyebrows and sheer power of will. With my honed administrative laser glare I scorch the secondary stream of students demanding arcane and impossible concessions.

This year I have had to grow an entirely new set of tentacles in order to deal simultaneously with the 50-odd students we are forcibly decanting into an extended version of the degree, comprising an extra year and spread-out course load; these have been struggling, distressed and frightened youngsters who have needed extremely gentle and empathetic handling. They have mostly been pathetically grateful for the attention, reassurance and offer of a way out of their difficulties and a bit of a lessening of pressure, but all that empathy is exceptionally draining. On the upside it's also extremely rewarding, and it's probably the warm glow of gosh-I'm-really-helping-these-kids which has reduced to two the number of students I completely eviscerated over the course of the week, both of whom damned well deserved it. (Pro tip: if you turn up with a blank form, no transcript, no good reason and a hopeful grin ten minutes after the advisors have left at the end of the last session of the last possible day for making changes, you will be righteously shredded and will obtain the desired signature only at the cost of leaving my office pale and shaking. I consider this to be a public service offered to students in the spirit of preparing them for Real Life, TM, by demonstrating that they can't, in fact, pretend that the rules don't apply to them.)

Despite its bi-annual reconstitution of me as a whirling and multi-limbed creature, this session has gone surprisingly smoothly, a fact I attribute to my increasingly experienced and wily pandering to the complex, structured gods of administrivia. My inner jack-booted fascist appreciates the exercise, and is getting really good at this. The week has, however, spat me out the other end in full fatigue resurgence, which means I'm glandular and basically buggered, waking up in the morning with the all-over aching bodily languor more usually the product of a full day's physical labour. Fortunately I have a Lovely Boss, who doesn't turn a hair when I wander into her office and inform her I'll be fleeing campus a bit earlier than usual for the rest of the week, to work gently from home on various catch-up administrative tasks. She has a marvellous way of simply taking for granted that of course I'll do that if that's what I need to do. Fortunately the Dean is apparently ecstatic at how well Hellweek went, so I may be thought to have earned this. Damned straight.


Subject line quote from Bowie's "Ch-ch-ch-changes", possibly the Hellweek anthem. "And these children that you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / Are immune to your consultations / They're quite aware of what they're going through." Disclaimer: I never actually spit on students.