Once again I find myself falling between the cracks down at Home Campus.
Working for the state has a number of benefits to it, or at least it did before the state was taken over by raving jackals and pantsless buffoons. But even before the Current Unpleasantness hit, one of the things that did not qualify as a benefit was the sheer volume of paperwork that comes with being part of a government-run institution. Mounds of it. Reams of it. Bureaucracy so vast and encompassing that it attains a sort of grandeur that holds you frozen in place while it reaches down and slowly engulfs even minor figures such as myself.
There’s an art to that, and you have to be impressed. I’m waiting for them to embed background music into their electronic forms to complete the effect. Well, I’d find it inspirational.
Now, I know that much of this paperwork is there for good reasons, reasons generally having to do with closing some loophole previously exploited by the cunning, the crass, and the depraved, groups you run into a lot in state employment. I spend several Saturdays a year proctoring LSAT exams, and at least a third of the time those take up is devoted to verbatim recitations of rules so arcane and picayune as to defy belief but which are there because somebody tried something funny and got caught and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The state works like that, only on a larger scale.
So when the requirement came down the email pike this month that I would have to report any outside remunerated activity in my field last year – presumably to avoid conflicts of interest – I didn’t even flinch.
And I understand why they do this, really I do. I can even see how the cunning, crass and depraved might need such a report to be filed on them, if only to add a charge of “falsifying documents” to their eventual rap sheet.
But dude, I’m a historian. It’s not like there are lobbyists who have me on speed dial, itching to cash in on my influence with the Powers That Be. If I had any such influence, believe me, I’d use it for myself.
Plus it turns out that filling out this form is not as simple as it seems.
Who saw that coming, huh?
First of all, I’m not sure I even have to fill it out at all. It only applies to people who have better than half-time appointments, and since my course load varies by semester you have to line that up just right or I don’t qualify. I did have one thing that might qualify as something I had to report, but I only had one semester last year with a better than half time appointment and it didn’t happen during that time.
Even if it did, I’m still not sure if it needs to be reported, given the rather elastic definitions of “outside,” “remunerated,” and “in your field” that appear repeatedly in the four different instruction documents that came with the form.
So I sent in a request for clarification to the person who sent me the form.
They copied me on their request for clarification from the person above them.
I expect this will go on for quite some time before answers come cascading down – that’s how it usually works with me. The HR people in Central already know my name from the last go-round of “does this guy fit into any of our categories or not?” that we played in February.
If I could peel bananas with my toes they’d just put me in the zoo.