Messing up payroll paperwork

This one’s a doozy: Some wonderful graduate students here at the University of Miami are working with me on the WhatEvery1Says project (WE1S), which examines public discourse on the humanities using methods in machine learning. We recently received a sizable grant to do this work, and I’ve been trying, and mostly failing, to figure out how to be an administrator so that I can administer my end of the grant. Unfortunately for these wonderful grad students, one particularly important thing I failed at was getting their time sheets in on time so that they could be paid for their first month’s work on the grant. The problem was simple and dumb: I misunderstood when the time sheets were due and told them to turn them in way later than they needed to. As a result, they didn’t submit them in time to make the payroll deadline for this month.

After talking with some colleagues in my department, we figured out something of a backdoor solution, and the grad students will get paid. But that hasn’t stopped me from feeling pretty terrible about this one. Part of my personal code of ethics when it comes to working with graduate students as a faculty member is that you don’t screw over the graduate students who are working with you, especially when it comes to paying them for their work. Grad school wasn’t long enough ago for me that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to constantly worry about money.

We’ve only been at this grant thing in earnest for less than a month, but one thing I’ve learned is that project management is really, really hard. It takes a lot of work to ask people to help you do work, and to get organized enough so that they can understand and do this work. I’m sure I’ll be messing this project up lots more in the years to come.