Confusion by Richard Bleil
A few days ago, I heard some interesting news. The supervisor who saw to it that I was sacked has, herself, been sacked. I’ll be honest; I’m not sure how I am supposed to feel about this.
A little bit of background. I walked into a bad position as dean with faculty that were headstrong and several that were unhappy with me not because of me but simply because they didn’t want a dean. The faculty that didn’t like me worked to undermine me politically, and those who supported me were quiet. Eventually, one in particular went to the provost often enough that the provost began to take her side. The provost (my direct supervisor) began meeting with my faculty and made it a point to be sure that I knew I was not invited and ignored my request to have another dean present. I’m proud of what I had accomplished while I was there and was directly responsible for some great improvements in the short time of my tenure, but it wasn’t enough. I’m convinced that there was no just cause for my dismissal short of political jockeying by hostile faculty, but I’m sure the Provost would disagree. However, the evidence that I was dismissed without just cause is evidence by the fact that they continued to pay off my contract (which had over fifty thousand dollars left on it) to basically not work as they complained about having a budget crisis. I’m sure that their attorney told them that they had no grounds to break the contract.
Of course, I have no idea why she was let go, and with privacy laws being what they are, I’m sure that I never will. She was hired as the institution was going through accreditation problems, and she was fired as soon as the accrediting body decided that the institution was running acceptably (a decision that I don’t understand considering the fact that this provost basically was covering up the truth to deal with the problems). She was fired, basically, as soon as the sanctions were lifted, which does seem as though they were waiting for that to happen before dropping the ax.
Now I’m trying to figure out how to feel about this. I think the common feeling would be to gloat, vindicated that the person who fired me has now been fired. I would be lying if I tried to deny that part of me is feeling just this. She decided she didn’t like me and saw to my dismissal. I knew many people who didn’t like her either and apparently, the list of those who disliked her reached high enough that somebody with the authority to dismiss her did just that. Being fired is a painful thing. Even with a contract that provides income for several more months, it’s all too common in our society that our identities are often inexorably tied to our careers and I certainly am no exception. Losing such a job is painful on a multitude of levels, and I’m sure it’s no different for her. Part of me is glad that she knows at least to some extent the pain that she has caused me.
But the problem is that I know the pain that she has caused me by dismissing me, and the pain that I’m sure she is now feeling as well. The reality is that I wouldn’t wish that on anybody else, including the provost who caused it in me. I guess I have to admit that I have had more than my fair share of fantasies of her dismissal, but honestly, I never really wished for it. I don’t like to see people unhappy, and that includes those who have made me so. I guess it’s the same reason that I hope that my ex-wife has moved on and is happy when I myself continue to struggle with loneliness and self-doubt because of her.
Yes, I suppose that makes me a proverbial “sap”. I guess there’s no real harm in wishing karmic kickback to those who deserve it (provided that we don’t actively do anything to cause it), but it’s just not who I am. I’m wondering if part of the reason that she was fired is because of what she did to me. I did have some pretty amazing successes, and the progress that I had made was largely wiped out by her and her actions, so it’s possible. Even if I am not directly responsible for her dismissal, no doubt the problem is related to her administrative style that lead to my dismissal. So now, I have more emotional baggage as a direct result of the fact that she was fired. I’ve already lost sleep wondering if I am somehow responsible for what happened to her, even though my mind tells me that it’s her own fault and not mine.
Still, that doesn’t seem to alleviate these concerns.