My Brief Stint…

I guess you could say that I have been Interim Director for about 9 days now.  Is that my official title?  It depends on who you ask.  I am somewhat serving in that role.  My boss is on maternity leave for the semester and I have taken on some of her work.  I am the only person in my office at this point, so I am going to go ahead and say, “Sure, you can call me interim director.  Just don’t say it around anyone associated with HR because I am pretty sure it is a title reclassification they would not be happy with as benefits and bargaining units change pretty dramatically.”  Or if you are my friend Ryan Hammes from Campus Rec, you can just call me “Director Sipes” like he does.  Whatever you call me, I am overworked and underpaid like many of the student affairs professionals.

But the title is not what matters at this point.  It is really about the days in the role.  Mainly what I have learned from this brief stint in my fledgling period.  So here we go.

So far, so good.  All buildings are standing.  I have not heard anything negative at this point.  All students are still intact.  So far, so good, right?

Well, not so much.  Budget problems are looming which will mean some tough decisions will be coming down the pipeline soon enough.  I am nervous that I have not developed the necessary political clout at this point to demonstrate why our areas need the funding that they do.  My office has apparently been hacked and slashed for years, including everything from resources to programs to staffing.  We are pretty much operating at bare bones at this point even though the demand for student involvement has increased dramatically.  My cup runneth over with projects, priorities, and personal objectives.  There isn’t much more we can do without letting go of something else.  With a minimum of 18% budget cuts on the horizon, our meager state budget will get even less.

That is the reality of the situation.  I am nervous that I will not event be at the table to help justify why we can’t take anymore hits.  And THAT is the reality of my “interim” status.  I have bi-weekly meetings with our AVP about Greek life and discipline.  I have weekly meetings with the Exec Dir. of ASI about day-to-day activities and clubs/orgs.  I have monthly meetings with our VP about whatever else is happening.  All the while, I have my boss who is anticipating on returning in the summer.  I am caught between a place where I could really do some great things and/or get stuck helplessly in a bureaucratic spiderweb.  There are so many people to navigate in making a decision that I almost feel it is easier to pull the trigger and then just apologize if it is not what someone wanted.

At the same time, I am trying to learn university related processes that I was never oriented on.  Because I work with student organizations, I am extremely knowledgeable on ASI business practices since our clubs and groups bank through our student government.  I am just getting up to speed on the convoluted university process for expenditures and reimbursements.  I have a purchasing card, but I cannot buy food with it.  I have to get reimbursed for any food related purchases, but that only happens if I get pre-approval by filling out the hospitality form.  I have yet to figure out anything I can actually use the purchasing card on.  Any travel for university related purposes is put on an American Express card that is under my name and has minimal to do with the university beyond I receive state government benefits to use it.  If I miss a payment, it impacts my credit score.  Speaking of which, I just paid as writing this post.  This does not even include contracts which go through our procurement office and that process is completely foreign to me.  Did I happen to mention that I am considered the “backup” for like 8 different student life areas?  Yea… That means if the primary is out, then I am responsible for reconciling expense reports or help to process payments for any outstanding expenses.  Umm…sucks for that area.

Outside of tangled university business practices, some upcoming decisions that could be tricky to navigate:

  • Staffing – Our student staff is paid through ASI and not the state.  This makes things easier in the long run, but we seem to keep running out of money for student assts every year.  I am not quite sure how this happens.  I will learn soon enough as ASI budgeting takes place in the end of February.
  • Budget – I live in CA.  We are basically f*cked.  I might just be following Michael Scott’s example for my office: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuGIgf-ICHM
  • Expansion – Our Greek community is booming.  Our campus infrastructure is tiny.  We need to add chapters to help with the craziness.  I am stretched thin, so it needs to be done strategically.
  • Resources/services for student groups and advisors – Our office is terrible in this area.  We have the bare minimum for student groups.  I really want to ramp this, but the problems above run usually take precedent.

I have been fortunate enough to have supportive staff in other areas of student life willing to help out with different projects and events.  Plus, I have some stellar student assistants to help with event planning and overall office support for administrative tasks.  All in all, I think that things will go well this semester.  There are just a lot of unforeseen circumstances that could really throw a wrench into things.

I just keep remembering, “So far, so good.”  I will be sure to keep you all in the loop.

Until next time…

-Justin

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About Justin Sipes

Learner Input Strategic Achiever Analytical
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