“Pre-Planned Feelings”

We have discussed our friend Clarissa‘s opinions on American academia and other topics in the past. She is an Hispanic Studies professor at a midwestern public university whose blog is always vividly written (and is contentious by design, I would say). I asked her if we could quote a truly startling post from today – in its dystopian entirety. Her title tops this post.

Today we received a document that describes the new procedure for creating an academic budget. It’s written in the most atrocious bureaucratese and lists 17 (seventeen) additional meetings on top of the ones in the already existing procedure. Every meeting is described not only in terms of the date, attendees and action items but also a list of feelings (yes, feelings) people should experience after each meeting.

Example. “February 16, 2023. We leave the meeting with a sense of confidence in our capacity to improve the budget and a sense of excitement regarding the new strategic budgeting process.”

There is a separate column for these feelings. Every sentence in it starts with “We leave the meeting with a sense of.” Please note that these meetings haven’t happened yet. These are future meetings. But the feelings they are supposed to inspire have already been pre-planned. And put down in writing by people who lack any sense of humor.

I know everybody is already tired of me bringing up the USSR but I’ll say it again. We weren’t this stupid in the USSR. The pre-planned feelings worked only until Stalin’s death. Once there were no mass executions, nobody took pre-planned feelings seriously.

This is a long, very detailed document. 5 pages, single-spaced, 10 pt font. Somebody got paid actual money to write this unreadable, moronic garbage. It was approved by the administration. What is wrong with us that we let this happen?

Two addenda:

The “pre-planned feelings” document refers to people, and again, I quote, as “folks especially faculty.” This “folks” is so grating because it aims to create a folksy, conversational mood in a situation where the guiding idea of the project is to get rid of as many workers as possible.

The concluding section titled “Opportunities and Threats” ends with the following statement: “Identify which departments have more faculty than can be justified.” What’s going to happen with these unjustified professors – or “folks” – is never explained. …

And here is the absolute pièce de résistance of the “pre-canned feelings” document:

We must lay the groundwork for a deeper and wider change in culture—one in which eventually all folks (faculty in particular) realize that their work in the classroom has some ‘economic’/fiscal/financial aspect/consequence.

After which “we will leave the meeting with a sense of” bla-bla.

The textbook definition of neoliberalism, by the way, is “markets in everything.” What does that mean? See above for the perfect example.

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