Despite my recent demise in the new Harry Potter book, ordinary life resumed today after I got home from the AAUP Summer Institute last night. I'm normalizing as well as possible. My brain is cloudy.
The Institute was a mixed bag. There were a few minor but significant details that seemed to have been left unattended, or for reasons unknown impossible to achieve. University of Nevada at Reno has a wifi network on campus, but not in the dorms, where attendees mainly stayed. Instead, the AAUP's information said the dorms had ethernet connections, which was true, but for most people the connections weren't working (although mine was, by some fluke). The wifi connection on campus required a password-protected account, which we weren't provided. Apparently there was wireless connection in the basement of one dorm building. Other similar technical problems perfused, but the programs themselves seemed to go off without too many hitches.
I did the contract bargaining workshop, and I left with mixed feelings about that too. The presenters/facilitators took rather a long time talking about bargaining techniques, and I would rather have had time devoted to practice and to reflection on that practice. Instead, after 4 hours of lecturing to us about how to bargain, we broke into 3 pairs (management vs. labor) to negotiate on the basis of a scenario they cooked up for us, putting a lot of pressure on us with a scoring rubric to complete agreements, but not giving us much time to think about the process itself - which would seem to me to be the chief benefit of the role-play.
Of the three pairs, only ours completed the agreements on 6 out of 6 areas, and so we won the high score. I get the feeling that the others ended up stuck in a very competitive mode, and ended up not reaching compromises. Our two sides, although we bargained hard, tried to make the other side accept a deal, rather than stick to our guns. I think that was partly because both sides got something they wanted, and partly because both sides wanted badly to convince the other to agree. (In the lecture portion, the presenters told us about traditional vs. "interest-based" bargaining. Traditional bargaining is starting with positions, and compromising to reach middle ground. Interest-based is starting with expressing what each sides interests are and trying to problem-solve to help both sides achieve as much of their interests as they could. Our approach strikes me as neither of these. Our aim was to persuade the other side to take the deal, so it was sort of motivation-based. The whole time I was contemplating the labor side's psychological state of mind and set of priorities, trying to read their minds and push them and pull them to agree.)
It reminded me a little of what a professor of mine at UNC-Charlotte once called a "refrigerator" class. You get out of class, get home, open the fridge, pull out a beer - and then realize what the hell that class was all about. I can't yet quite put down in words what I have learned, but the above is close. The point is to find ways to press toward agreement, however you have to do that. (At one point our side decided to act as though we believed our budgets were about to be cut. I think that pushed the labor side to agree to a smaller raise, and as it turns out, their secret information was that our budgets were going to be cut. They may have been motivated by that information, or they may have been motivated by our posture that we knew the same thing. In my view, it doesn't matter which worked. I think that's my point.)
So anyway, Lauren got up late on Saturday, bussed over to Border's for her copy of the last HP book, and read is yesterday. We've started reading it aloud today. Five chapters later, here I am, not yet killed off in the book, and so, having blogged, ready to play guitars and then cook beef properly to get the memory of bad prime rib on the Lake Tahoe dinner cruise out of my head. (In all seriousness, this is getting to be sort of annoying: I'm routinely disappointed in any beef cooked by anyone else but me. You can't even get rare meat anywhere anymore!)