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8:30pm on Wednesday, 4th February, 2009:



We had a bunch of meetings this afternoon to review undergraduate examination papers. I was in the one for the year two papers, which was the worst to be in by far because it had the most modules and they all came with resit papers (even though few of them are actually going to be sat). The meeting was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon because that's a guaranteed teaching-free period, so no-one could get out of the meetings through teaching commitments. We weren't allowed other commitments, either — the department ran the equivalent of three-line whip on us to make sure we would attend and we would not be elsewhere. I had to reschedule a talk in Wales I was due to give today until later in the month, and other people had similar appointments they had to re-arrange.

The university then made the decision to make today be a visit day. Prospective students would be coming here to look around the place. What's more, it would be the busiest visit day in the year.

So, all the lecturers who interview students suddenly found that they were required to be in their office for 90 minutes to talk to prospective students, even though most of them were also supposed to be at the examination review meetings. What had been pitched as incredibly important had to give way to something even more important — interviewing students.

When I got the call to do the interview, I asked if the organisers could make an effort to be on time. On the last occasion when I interviewed students, my first one showed up 15 minutes late (which was still 5 minutes better than the time before that). Time spent not reviewing exam papers would be time that would have to be added to the end of the meeting to do the missed work, so I wanted there to be a student ready for me when I arrived.

Needless to say, it was 25 minutes before one appeared. 25 minutes! How did they get to be 25 minutes late?! When I saw them at 1pm they were on time, so how come at 2:15pm they'd got so far behind schedule? I mean, 25 minutes late! That's time I could have been spending arguing whether there should be a comma in a sentence or not.

Worse, my final interviewee didn't show up at all. I sat in my office waiting for him, and he wasn't delivered. Had I switched on my computer and read my email, I would have discovered that he hadn't made it to the university (he was from Wales), so I could have gone back to my meeting earlier. However, I didn't switch on my computer and read my email because I was waiting to interview someone. Augh!

The meeting finished an hour late, at 6pm. Well, when I say "finished", we gave up at 6pm because some people really had to go home at that time. We only managed to go through half the papers we needed to, and will have to reconvene on Monday morning.

Those of you out there who want to become academics: this is the kind of thing that happens the whole time...

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).