Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shuffling Toward Legitimacy

I've mentioned before that I work part-time as a "casual hire" at the university. "Night watchman" stuff, of a kind, for about 12 hours a week on average. I've been doing it since roughly the start of the last school year.

One of the strange things about being a "casual hire" is that I'm relatively undocumented. Yes, there's a piece of paper in a file somewhere that says what I do, where, for whom. I even have a copy or two of it. And yes, I get paid and have pay stubs. I have email, I have a homepage, and so on and so forth - I'm even in the state's odd "retirement plan for part-time employees." But I don't have an office, a campus phone, union membership, or medical coverage, and no one outside my department can ever find me when they try to look me up in computer databases. It's almost like I'm a secret or something.

Gradually, though, I've been working on getting to the point where I can say "no, really, I do work here!" without getting looked at funny. Last semester I was visiting family at the main campus, 200 miles from home, and couldn't figure out how to get on the wireless network, so I swung by the offices of the folks I work for, and asked them. They told me to go ask the folks who handled the network, who in turn told me to go back and get proof of employment (which I did, after a couple people figured out what constituted proof of employment for someone like me), and then gave me a login that works for all the campus wireless networks. Handy. It also came with another email address and a "web portal" thing.

Yesterday, I stopped by the bookstore at the local campus to look at their software prices. I need to pick up a big software suite for some of the other stuff I do with academics in the natural sciences, and the retail price is hideously expensive. Of course, the bookstore lady couldn't find me in any databases or catalogs or directories. I decided to visit the campus center, found the ID place, and asked the girls there what was involved in getting an ID. They tried to look me up, couldn't find me either. But they said if I had a campus login, we should be able to find my university ID number through the "web portal," and sure enough, we did, and they issued me an ID. Which says I work for the main campus (which I do, since that's where the people who pay me are - I just almost never see them), and am "faculty/staff."

No distinction between the two. No mention of being part time or "casual hire." For all anyone knows, I'm just a particularly weird professor.  If anyone sees my ID and asks what I teach, I have decided that I am an "Abject Professor of Multidisciplinary Autodidactics."  If they don't have the vocabulary to get that, it's not my fault.  But at least now I can get a slightly less heinous price on that software. And come to think of it, Borders has its "educator appreciation weekend" coming up! :)

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