Another Serious Question

When my dedicated colleague retires, which is sure to happen soon, what should I do about the honor society? I cannot stand it, I cannot tolerate organizations whose names are comprised of Greek letters, and the initiation ceremony is genuinely Fascist.

As it is the party must be held in my house, as my house is interesting and close to campus. This means I have to spend a day cleaning and shopping – the President is always unreliable – and so I lose both Research and Class Preparation, and I feel Resentment.

Then the initiates show up, perfumed, dressed, twice my height and full of estrogen and although normally I am the most youthful and energetic person in the room, I am no longer, and I feel overwhelmed.

Then the parents appear, waitresses, postmen, cab drivers, all dressed to the nines, they did not graduate from high school and now they are going to their child’s initiation into an honor society in college, and I relent.

Then we have the ceremony, and the hors-d’oeuvres, and then everyone but the coolest faculty and students leave, and we have dinner, and it is the best meeting of the year.

Every time this happens I go through the same spectrum of moods. And I am terrified: since my party is always so good, am I designated to be the next advisor of the honor society? I cannot face it alone.

What should I do? Should I force someone else to be the designated advisor, offering to still hold the party at my house, and promising to bite that bullet?


13 thoughts on “Another Serious Question

  1. I am also an honor society adviser, and essentially because it is an opportunity for parents to be proud of their children. I was struck by how much your experience mirrors my own: dreading it, but enjoying it in the end. I would make sure to get a co-adviser–maybe a co-adviser who can host it him/herself.

  2. Servetus makes a good suggestion. You could transition this service assignment to another (junior?) faculty member, since it looks like you’ve done your time. Also–why does the party have to be at your house? Is there no suitable room or space on your campus where the initiation ceremony and reception can be held? On the other hand, if you believe that your students genuinely appreciate your efforts, and their parents do too, then look at the annual party as an excuse to clean your house as summer begins so that you can focus on other things.

    I would say, do it if you want to, but don’t if you don’t. (That’s generally my rule with service assignments: since at my university, service only counts for 15% of our annual salary exercise, my rule is that I have to value the work and believe in its importance because there are essentially no other rewards.)

  3. Ha! I like Historiann’s idea of regarding this as a summer commencement ritual. And the parents, how wonderful that you can be the host for this special moment for them. Throw the party, but allow someone else the pleasure of being the adviser.

  4. Without considering them necessarily fascist, I think there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about these disciplinary honor societies: first and foremost being the money they charge students for the credential and producing a certificate of membership. (A sum significant enough in my field that it is larger than our own chapter dues, which we use for things like sending students to regional conferences, paying for pizza after faculty talks, etc.–we never see a penny from the national organization.) On the other hand, despite the money, students seem eager to join and most who are invited still join. Probably we could do the same thing much more cheaply with an “our campus departmental honor scholar,” but the university monopolizes all fo the honors designations, and it wouldn’t be recognizable on a resumé. I really do think of it now as just a chance to make our large public university campus a little more personal and to recognize in a different way than GPA and its associated honors just how industriously many of our students are pursuing their learning.

  5. BTW: we use our chapter dues to pay for the costs of initiation. Obviously it is not as cool if you rent a room, but I would find it really stressful to invite all those kids over! (although I only have an apt, so it’s not really a possibility).

  6. Gracias y’all! Fascist = Falange symbols and texts expressing nostalgia for the era of Philip II, which was the era the Spanish Fascists wished to restore.

    I’d be glad to keep doing the party if I could choose the day and, ideally, get some help with it. Or even without help – if I could just choose the day. Rooms on campus are very expensive and my house is the only one within reasonable distance.

    I do not want to advise, even co advise, because of dealing with the national organization and because of what it can all devolve into.

  7. Ha, so literally fascist. Wow. I mean not that I didn’t believe you, but yikes!

  8. “Should I force someone else to be the designated advisor, offering to still hold the party at my house, and promising to bite that bullet?”

    Why not?

    You don’t really mind the party as much and that’s the coolest present you could give the students. But don’t be the faculty advisor unless you absolutely have to. You clearly don’t want to take it on and it’s too much work and aggravation (from one who has to do it :^D).

  9. Interesting to see this post still generating interest (there seems to be a new pingback). In the end, someone else was assigned to this and I didn’t even have to give the party, and wasn’t even begged to do it … it is wonderful.

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