Saturday, September 17, 2016

Archives, Important or Not

When I look back at this week, what will I remember?  Will there be events that are harbingers, even if I didn't recognize them as such in the week in which they happened?

And yes, I realize I'm asking that question a lot in the past four months.

This was the week that I looked around my workplace and realized that in terms of administration, that I have been here longest, along with the administrative assistant to the president and one or two others.  I think of myself as institutional memory, but I also have computer files that serve as institutional memory.

This week, as I have watched colleagues try to reassemble the records of those who left hastily, I decided it was time to upload those files to a shared drive. 

Imagine my surprise to realize how few of those files are important at all.  I uploaded all the old syllabi; I am routinely asked for old syllabi from students who are continuing on and need to prove that one class is equivalent to another class.  I uploaded the old assessment and institutional effectiveness files, although I'm fairly sure that people aren't reading them even now, much less will be likely to need them in the future.  I uploaded all the files from our successful 2014 ACICS reaccreditation visit, and I took just a wistful moment to reflect on all the troubles that have fallen on ACICS as an institution.  I uploaded tutor log sheets and an Admissions Committee file--but I didn't upload all the old AdComm files.  I also made a file of all the assorted GE class assignments that I've collected through the years as I've subbed for people who needed to be suddenly absent.

Did I delete all the old files that I realize aren't really important?  No, I did not.  There's part of me that simply refuses to believe that all those documents are not important--all that work, and for what?  There's part of me that delights in the archive aspect of it all, even as I realize that the archive is important to no one but me.

I'm thinking of Moby Dick:  "And I am escaped alone to tell thee," which I have always misremembered as "Only I alone escaped to tell the tale."  Some days I feel like Ishmael, in some sort of maelstrom that I only understand tangentially.

Some days I wonder if I'm part of the whale, if higher ed as we know it is being hunted into extinction.

Or maybe we're all the ship--but I don't like that metaphor either.  Still, I have the glimmerings of a poem, and that's not a bad thing either.

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