campus during the summer

For the first time, in many, many years, I’m actually free this summer.

When I began my career at the University, I was hired on a 12-month appointment to direct the Biology Computer Resource Center (BCRC). After the first year, the chairman — with some help from the dean — rewrote my job classification to put me on a 9-month appointment so that I would be able to apply for grants to supplement my salary during the summer. But, with the understanding, that I would not “vanish” during the summer and would be available to provide support to students and faculty that needed it.

In point of fact, the summer was indispensable for running the BCRC because it was then that I could update software, replace hardware, and build the server infrastructure that made running the facility possible. It was the only period when I had the uninterrupted blocks of time needed to really accomplish significant projects. And I did: setting up instructional materials and resources, engaging in curriculum design, and writing papers.

Perhaps eight years ago, I proposed to develop an online version of the writing class I teach to be taught during the summer. Most summer classes are taught only over a 6-week period. I tried the class that way but found it unsatisfactory: students can’t write enough in 6 weeks to get a full-semester’s worth of writing experience. So I taught the course over the full 13-week period spanning both summer sessions. And that worked pretty well. It was a pretty light load spread out that way, but it was still an obligation.

When the Biology Department closed the BCRC and rewrote my job description during the pandemic, I no longer had the obligation to spend my summers working on infrastructure, but I continued to teach the writing class. This year, however, I decided to stop. Mostly, I just wanted to have the time to write, but the fact that I would have had to migrate all of the teaching materials to a different LMS played no small role in my decision as well. I notified the Department back in October I wouldn’t be teaching it, so they could find someone else, if they wanted to. But nobody stepped up.

But, for the first time in nearly 30 years, I’m free of obligations during the summer. I can’t say I don’t like it, because it’s glorious. It’s not like I’m not “working” in that I’ve already written tens of thousands of words of fiction. But it’s great to be able to focus without distractions — and to let serendipity guide how I spend each day.

I’m looking forward to retirement.

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