My question is, is being event planners every semester (unrelated to deep research) considered part of being an academician? And how do you navigate or balance all of your tasks (including organizing events, teaching preparation, revamping teaching strategies, supervision, research and also family life)?

Context (you don't need to read if you don't want to):

From my observation, the culture of my university (a teaching university in South-East Asia country) and faculty is to engage in community services and organizing lots of events unrelated to deep research. Not much effort is made to make deep research, if any, it would only be grants with direction to commercialization and business.

Most of these tasks of organizing events are pushed to the assistant professors, aside from administrative academicians, especially the new staffs. If the events involve organizing conference, the research involved is usually superficial and they are just for gathering participants. The tasks are usually low-level tasks including menial clerk tasks, logistic management, financial management, and other tasks included when organizing events, not only chairing sessions. (Chairing sessions looks wonderful in comparison). They are not that difficult but they are a lot and taking too much time, months or even a year, and not contributing much to our performance index.

These new assistant professors don't have enough time to prepare for teaching (9 to 12 teaching hours) and redesigning teaching strategies, let alone doing deep and meaningful research. I've tried googling about academic workload, but they are mostly about teaching and research, which from my perspective, is quite wonderful, compared to be spammed by menial tasks of becoming event planners every year.

I've tried voicing out this opinion to my faculty members and administrative academicians, but I get the feeling that they do not agree with it. Since we don't have many staffs, they need every help they could muster, and maybe organizing events comes naturally to them. The advantage is we might get jobs as 'experienced' event planners if we would like to opt out of academia :)

Would love to hear any insight to fix my way of thinking on how to cope. Thank you.

  • 2
    Don't you have to "organise" or "event plan" for your personal life as well? shopping, maintenance on property, taxes, paying bills, seeing friends etc etc – Solar Mike Sep 26 '20 at 7:59
  • interesting. so on a smaller scale, yes. This means that I already have a lot on my plate :( – kate Sep 26 '20 at 8:03

I don't see this situation as "normal" in any sense. However...

It is probably a very good idea that your university is doing these sorts of outreach and community events. I would support that. But not on the backs of new faculty. But it also depends quite a lot on the local reward structure. If a new faculty member can reach tenured/permanent status from such things rather than a publication record and good teaching, then it is fairly benign. It is just part of the inherent value system of that place.

On the other hand, it doesn't prepare you well to move to another academic position at another university, who probably have a more traditional view of the proper activities of new faculty.

In lots of places, such "event planning" is taken on by senior faculty, actually, who have withdrawn a bit from research after a long career, or who have the publication pipeline operating at capacity anyway. Most of the people I interacted with on conference committees, for example, weren't junior faculty. Nor do "most" faculty engage in such activities.

But if your own career trajectory as you see it depends on publications, then you are probably at the wrong place and should be seeking an exit. While it is, I think, a valuable service in general, it isn't helping your career. There are, actually, places that put high priority on supporting the career needs of junior faculty. In most places, while "service" is a value, it is considered secondary to research, especially, and teaching.

  • Yes, senior faculties participate as the advisors or chairmen, however usually they mainly give 'orders' or advise only, while most of the management & executing low-level stuffs are being done by the juniors. Thanks a lot Buffy for your opinion and advice. So.. it's not quite normal depending on the area of the world we're in.. I will reflect back again about my own career trajectory, try to see this as opportunities while be careful to not bending backwards. – kate Sep 26 '20 at 13:30

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