Saturday, February 02, 2013

Friday Ruminations

It's felt like a bad few weeks at Harvard.

Not that anything actually BAD has happened, like an inexplicable paper rejection or some interdepartmental fight or anything.  It's just that January is filled with time-sucking (or, really, just sucking) administrative work normally, and it's worse this year as I have more administrative duties. 

My weeks have been spent looking over faculty applications and graduate applications, and dealing with the paperwork and relevant meetings associated with such.  Handling multiple promotion cases.  Writing letters for students applying for internships or summer programs or whatever.  Preparing for my class this semester -- a process exacerbated my Harvard's fairly recent change of schedule which places many students away from campus from December finals until the day classes start, making it hard to organize the mostly undergraduate teaching assistants.  Handling papers as part of the STOC executive committee.  Reading some undergraduate admission folders.  Chairing a grant panel (for a friendly foreign country).  Writing letters for colleagues outside Harvard going through promotion cases.  (You're welcome.)  Dealing with the myriad issues of the other CS faculty that pass through me while I'm Area Dean.  It's rare that I've had the 20 minutes to think about research, talk to my collaborators, or work out things with my graduate students. 

Individually, there's nothing bad about any of these tasks.  They're part of the job.  But packed together, so I feel like I'm on an administrative treadmill, it's wearing me out.  If it's optional in February, I'm saying no.  (That means you, ISIT papers people have asked me to review.) 

On a more positive note, I was at a new concentrator event, and ended up talking for a while with four or five women who plan to major in CS at Harvard, most of whom are currently taking my class.  I'm happy that we're seeing many, many more women in CS at Harvard;  my only disappointment is that it hasn't been that way for so long. 

CS 124 is holding steady at about 100-110 students this year, maybe a little smaller than last year, but at the level of noise.  We've got four CS classes over 100 people this semester from the looks of things.  (To calibrate, that's a lot for us spoiled Ivy League faculty.)  Overall CS enrollments keep on growing.    

Finally, an amusing note, in Harvard's Courses of Instructions I'm listed as the teacher next year for CS 221, our graduate complexity course.  There always seem to be many bugs in the data for course listings, but this is particularly funny, as I'm planning to be on sabbatical next year, and I've never taught (or had it suggested that I teach) 221.  Someone transposed something somewhere.

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