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Balancing Act

by Bart Everson

Balance

As you may have noted, CAT+FD's got a new expanded mission that says we'll support faculty work/life balance.

Thus it was with great interest that I attended a panel discussion on just this topic at "Meaningful Living and Learning in a Digital World." I listened attentively as panelists critiqued the current academic culture, which has become a culture of looking busy-busy-busy, of appearing to be more harried than one really is. Often faculty really are busy, it was pointed out, but even during the rare moment of leisure, it is of crucial importance to continue to look and act busy — lest anyone think we aren't pulling our weight.

The deleterious effects of this culture were detailed at some length. It creates an atmosphere of constant stress, distrust, and fear. It is not conducive to thinking deeply, teaching, or transformational learning.

"It's the single most crucial issue facing the academy," one panelist said.

A culture shift is needed, the panelists agreed, and I found myself nodding along with them. But what came next was a shocker.

The culture shift may need to start with staff, including administrators, who have less flexibility than faculty.

Woah! That got my attention. Even though I work closely with faculty from every discipline, even though I identify with faculty on many levels, I'm on staff. What can I do, despite my limited flexibility, to facilitate this needed culture shift?

As it turns out, actually, I am well-positioned to make at least a few modest efforts. After all, I actually work in a unit that includes work/life balance in its mission. For some while now, I've been working to help develop and cultivate personal practices that aim to foster a more contemplative mode of living. See, for example, our Contemplation & Conversation series.

I've got something else up my sleeve as well. I've noted that faculty frequently express a desire for more guidance with time management. Frankly, we could all use some tips and techniques for making the most of our time. So, over the course of this semester, I've been implementing various time management practices in my own life, as a form of experiential research for a workshop on this topic. We plan to offer a workshop on my findings next semester. Stay tuned for details.

So that's what I have in mind. What about you?

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