The “Backboard Call”

All graduate advisors and dissertation directors may want to let their students know that Friday at midnight is not a good time to call your senior colleagues at home to complain about your class schedule.

“I am or was asleep, please talk to me at work on Monday” is a hint all, but especially untenured faculty members really ought to take — as opposed to simply dialing the next number.

My hairdresser refers to calls such as those I and others have now received as “backboard calls.” These are apparently similar to “booty calls” except that you the destinataire are being interpellated not as a booty but as a backboard — something for the destinateur to lob tennis or handballs at.

New faculty members should also realize that if they have made three or four backboard calls, their destinataires have probably talked among themselves, especially if you have also scheduled a meeting with an administrator.

If after that meeting you invite one of them to coffee saying I have to talk to you, something very serious has happened, you must realize that this destinataire will probably ask that administrator for a reality check before having coffee with you.


16 thoughts on “The “Backboard Call”

  1. Naturally, I post this in part to emphasize the point that untenured faculty is often as abusive to tenured faculty as the other way around.

  2. You answered a call on Friday at midnight instead of letting it go to voicemail?

    The only time someone you don’t know well should make that call is if he/she has already notified the police about whatever catastrophe inspired it.

  3. Wow, that’s wild. I’d almost score one for the corporate world there. Inappropriately-timed calls at going down the hierarchy we had, but at least not upward.

    Though it’s been 5+ years. I have the sense things are different now. Some 30ish corporate folks for example now take cell phone calls in meetings. And not, I mean, by ducking out into the hallway. Right there at the conference table! Business stops and folks two levels up wait while the dude talks to his bud.

  4. Undine — O good, you’re here, I knew this would scandalize you. No — I have caller ID so I knew who it was and didn’t answer.

    The call to me was at 11:59. Someone else had gotten one at 11:30 and picked up. They were the ones saying they were asleep. They have teenagers so they always answer the phone. It took them 28 minutes or so to get him off the phone. Then he called me and left a message ordering me to call first thing in the morning. I didn’t. Then more calls were made and more e-mails sent to more people, and the plot thickened.

    This was the Blackguard, already a character in this site.

    Tom – so good to see you’re still posting! Yes, this one really does bespeak an amazing amount of entitlement although it is true, people have an amazing sense of entitlement nowadays. This is shocking and also irritating about the cell phones.

  5. This is starting to ring the proverbial bell with me. Does he ever complain about the “old girl network?” Or I am way off here?

  6. He doesn’t speak English, so he doesn’t know that term. A lot of the people he hates and complains about are men.

  7. So he’s not like the one I knew who came to work reeking of drink every day and eventually blew his brains out in front of his wife and three daughters.

  8. I don’t know — he could be. He may also learn the term and decide we are all old girls, regardless of actual gender! 😉

  9. Now he informs me that in his country it is normal to call people you work with to argue about work at midnight. It is not rude or presumptuous, and people take such calls.

  10. You should patronise him: “Oh how interesting. I’d never heard of that before. It’s really not what I am used to, so I don’t think I will answer your calls if you do that again.”

  11. …Because they are not direct with themselves.

    Now he has decided we are all old girls. If you knew the actual gender arrangements of the persons involved you would really laugh at the “old girl” idea … everyone is some form of man except me, I am the one who most easily reverts to sexist speech, and … well, it is all entirely laughable, and moreso IRL.

  12. Jennifer — I tried that last year but it didn’t work because he does not see the irony. He thought it was a declaration of allegiance. That is the problem I have had to fix now.

  13. Thursday I finally gave him a piece of my mind. I am not a chair, director, or supervisor, but I am the most senior person in field.

    As of Monday he had stopped speaking to the lead instructor, but as a result of my laying down the law he is only speaking to the one other male assistant professor.

    Said person finds himself in an odd position and is not sure what to do yet. I said not to worry, that Blackguard will be begging himself back into our good graces in two weeks or so, and in the meantime we won’t have to deal with him.

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