BY CAPRICE LAWLESS
Administration’s doublespeak and double-dealing can leave you with cross words so numerous you can hardly speak. At times the angst is overwhelming. When you reach a low ebb, dwell on that a few moments, and pay attention to how you feel. When your mind is so crowded with contradictions you can’t put two sentences together, consider that, as well. When you are working from within a maze designed to trip you up and to confuse you, stopping to monitor how you feel is the most important step. This is especially true if you are an organizer/alarm clock who needs to awaken peers from this same nightmare. Take each of those cross words, each of those disparate sentences, consider the questions you would like to ask, do some research, and then pose them as clues in a crossword puzzle. To play on the double-speak “Workplace Answers” tutorial, our 2016 crossword had to be named “Workplace Questions.”
Crossword programs are cheap (check out Crossword Weaver) and fairly easy to master. Allow a semester of lead-time to research facts and to double- and triple-check your crossword. You will need several peers to proof it, and it will help to run the concept by your Conference officials and counsel (profuse thanks to Suzanne Hudson, Don Eron, Stephen Mumme, and Ray Hogler).
We all like to complain about administrative bloat in higher education, of course. To move people to action requires specificity. Chapter leaders have to localize the story, make it real. For puzzle-solving peers, the experience of discovering the bloat specifics themselves in a disarmingly playful crossword can have a powerful effect. Its publication creates buzz, chat, shares, posts, snarls, snickers, and stares (at administrative fat cats); stew ingredients for organizing.
Post the puzzle solution on your chapter’s home page to drive the curious puzzle solvers to your website. Print and distribute the puzzle widely on campus to peers, and e-mail it to lawmakers, press contacts, etc. Our 2013 crossword was useful at recruitment tables and during Campus Equity Week as a conversation starter.
At this year’s annual AAUP end-of-the-semester party we call the Damn It! Summit, the first 20 attendees who bring to the Denver Press Club a completed 2016 “Workplace Questions” crossword will get special prizes (i.e., festively wrapped packages of Ramen noodles or sample-sized bottles of Advil). We will toast the prizewinners with several rounds of inexpensive CCCS Remover.
The beauty of including hypertext links in the clue citations is that those who read them online can open the cited documents with a simple click, and thus take a look at the startling facts for themselves. The news in black and white will leave them seeing red and feeling blue. Those are the colors of the organizer’s rainbow.