UPAA Blog 2020-21 #3 - 9/15/20 (text by Dean Harephoto above by Young Kwak) Dean Hare on the sidelines during a Washington State football game, October 2, 2016 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Dean Hare was a photographer for Washington State University Photo Services from 2014-2020. His last day was Sept. 15, 2020. This article is a companion to a series of stories in the upcoming 2020 Contact Sheet, the annual journal of the UPAA.

I KNEW.

I knew as soon as I saw the Zoom meeting invite pop into my email early Friday, August 28, set to begin an hour after our creatives’ group usual Friday morning meeting start time. One look at the “Mandatory Attendance” label, and that those attending included my boss and their boss — and I knew.

My first thought after seeing that meeting invite was that I hoped the regular Friday morning creatives’ meeting did not run long, as I wanted to wash my hair, trim my beard, shave and be in professional photographer attire for what I felt I knew was coming. Fortunately, the timing worked out and I felt that I looked professional when the meeting started.

As soon as I saw an unknown person join the meeting who was not on the meeting invitation I received, it confirmed that I was right. This person had to be from either Human Resources or from the university legal team to document the meeting; with their invitation sent as a BCC or a separate invitation. It turns out this person was from Human Resources.

The purpose came out rapidly once the meeting started — my boss’ boss confronted the problem head-on and (unhappily) told me that I was joining the ranks of those losing or who had lost their job(s) due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yup: my position was being cut due to a lack of work; work that normally generated the charge-back revenue from which my salary is/was drawn.

Thus, I was informed as of 10:03 a.m. PDT, that I had joined an unhappy classification that politicians, economists, sociologists, and historians will be discussing and arguing over for years: my job is ending due to this damned pandemic, a situation significantly fueled by the lack of a nationally organized pandemic response. So, my last day of work with Washington State University Photography Services will be Tuesday, September 15, which corresponds to the end of a pay period.

Rationally, I was not shocked by this decision. With no students officially on campus for in-person classes, compounded with the postponement of the Pac 12 fall sports seasons, there was and still is extraordinarily little work, and thus darn near zero revenue flowing into unit coffers. Unless the higher-ups in the university communications unit decided to shuffle money around to cover for this lack of revenue, I knew my position was most likely toast.

Washington State fans react during ESPN's College GameDay broadcast Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 in Pullman, Wash. It was the first time College GameDay has been broadcast from Pullman. It was also the 15th anniversary of the first GameDay broadcast where Cougar alum Tom Pounds first flew the flag known as Ol' Crimson.

For clarification: WSU Photo Services mostly funds itself as a service center through chargebacks. When times are ‘normal’ we make money. All Photo Services photographers are generalists who can photograph everything — and do it all damn well. We all love and excel at shooting sports. The significance of the Pac 12 fall sports season being pushed back is that the athletics department is the second largest revenue source we have. Enrollment management (student recruiting) is the largest dollar customer.

RoboSub Club of the Palouse members work to resolve issues as they use the current (old) robot submarine as a test platform for new technologies on Saturday, March 28, 2015, at Gibb Pool in Pullman. 

Currently (damn, I hate typing that caveat) my coworkers’ jobs are (semi)safe. Their funding classification are both permanent budget line (PBL), while my position is/was directly funded through chargebacks. Even then, they are both only semi-safe right now.

The fiscal accounting is darn simple in the eyes of the higher-higher-ups when they look only at the Photo Services budget: no income equals Dean has no job. However, right now, no non-faculty jobs at the university below the executive level is truly safe. (Damn me for having used the tuition waiver perk to take all those courses offered by the business college — based on what I have learned, I can’t even gripe too much about the decision when looking only at the dollars and cents issues.)

For me and my situation, the bottom line came down to the fact the university president ordered the University Communications V.P. to trim approximately $470,000 from the UComm budget. Since that order came through, two highly placed and well-paid people - one a good friend from when we were both students; and the other on friendly terms, and who headed the search committee that recommended hiring me - had already been informed their employment was ending October 31. (I had hoped for at least that much time, but alas.) Another cost-cutting step was made to drop one or two of the four annual *WSU Magazine* editions sent to alumni and friends of the university.

After announcing those changes, another senior employee confirmed their retirement, set for before my last day; their decision unrelated to the Covid economic crunch. This employee currently is the longest tenured WSU UComm employee (35+ years!) and looks forward to retirement. I have learned that about that same time, another long-term employee in the UComm IT department voluntarily dropped to half-time. I had really hoped that the employee’s voluntary retirement announcement and the IT person choosing to drop to half-time might have freed up enough funding so that the higher-higher-ups could have finagled any excess budget dollars towards covering my salary while still meeting the president’s budget directive, at least until the November~esque decision regarding whether or not the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed enough to allow in-person classes for Spring Semester and for Pac 12 sports to resume.

Scenes from nearly 6 years at WSU - Clockwise from top left: Dean at a January 2019 Track meet, 2016 Football, 2016 Women's Soccer and 2015 Commencement.

Alas, Prince Hamlet’s question was answered thusly: it was not to be.

Oddly, as soon as I saw the emailed Zoom meeting “you will attend~vitation”, I felt a sense of calmness — the stress and anxiety of whether I still had a job was gone. I knew the answer — the Sword of Damocles dropped, and I now need to look to a different future. I do not like this situation, but at least this cause of anxiety and uncertainty no longer exists in my life. I even slept well that night. (Now other stresses and worries fill my consciousness, each requiring solving in diverse ways.)

After the formal verbal notification of impending termination of employment from my boss’ boss, the HR rep emailed several paperwork items during the meeting. Ironic tidbit: the efficient HR rep had the email and attachments ready to go before the meeting started. As soon I received the formal verbal notification, she hit “Send.” That is how I know the exact time I learned my fate.

Washington State University president Elson S. Floyd waves to graduates as he enters Beasley Coliseum for the 2014 Fall Commencement ceremony in Pullman. 

In some ways I felt sorry for the HR rep — it was obvious this rep had represented the HR department too many times during this same type of meeting. At one point the HR rep seemed to tear up. (I did during a couple of private moments when I turned off the audio and video feeds from my computer.) Ahhh, the odd things careening through one’s mind during a meeting like this: the HR rep told me my total employment time at WSU was calculated (as of July 31) at 2,115 days. A new-back-then book title I saw in the library at my high school all those years ago popped into my mind: The Ten Thousand Day War : Vietnam 1945-1975. I realized that the Vietnam War lasted five times longer than my WSU employment ... (I had to look up the correct title for this, but I remember the cover photo and gist of the title.) Then I got back to listening to the HR rep.

As a state employee, there are certain protections some of you working for private universities may not enjoy, and vice versa. I plan to do my best to take advantage of all available resources that help tide me over until I land my next job.

The next day was different. On Saturday I went into the office to begin clearing out my workspace and my personal items. Realization hit hard as I walked through the doorway while carrying the second-to-last load that needed to go to my car.

It is amazing at how much one accumulates without a periodic deep cleaning:

  • saved copies of employment paperwork like monthly time/leave reports, salary change notifications, and expense reimbursement forms (I really did not want to make a dedicated space for them at home. Now I must!)
  • the set of good clothes for those emails and phone calls that result in unplanned appearances in front of university higher-ups
  • the set of shorts kept handy in case the fickle building heating system decided to turn the heat up to “Bake” or “Steam” even in winter; and the corresponding set of warm clothing for when the HVAC system decided “Freeze” or “Arctic” felt better than “normal”, no matter the season
  • the slippers I kept for changing into after a long day on my feet when I still needed to edit and turn photos
  • the utensils and lunch foods kept handy for saving dining dollars — or for eating when all dining services are closed
  • all the small trinkets given by out by various folks
  • the lamp I brought to give a soft and uniform editing light that fit the lamps used by my friends as they edited photos.

All these items added up to multiple trips to my car.

The final time I walked through the studio doorway Saturday was emotionally rough — because I knew that it would not be my final trip through this doorway — I still need to bring my workstation and camera gear to the office, plus turn in my keys. In many ways, I already felt like an interloper in this space I had called my second home for more than five years. Sadly, I discovered that for me the time needed to make this mental switch from belonging to guest/interloper is remarkably short.

Washington State alumnus Craig Kincaid, of Kincaid Partner Farms harvests wheat across the rolling hills of the Palouse on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Whitman County, Wash.

Sleeping Saturday night was much more difficult, thanks to the memories of all the fun times playing across my eyelids — as well as the times I goofed. (Minor goofs really: things like trying to help a 200-400 f/4.0 lens and Nikon D5 learn if they really are as bouncy on concrete as a basketball (they’re not!) — and if you think I really feel that was a minor goof, I have some fantastic real estate in exotic locations I will be happy to sell you for a good price ... )

Sleeping Sunday night was OK. Monday was rougher. I told our creatives’ group during the meeting, and also a friend at athletics. Hearing the sympathy in their responses was in some ways harder than telling them the news.

After lunch that fateful Friday, a lunch filled with time with a friend and a barley-pop I had never tried (it was tasty!) and the conversations with my friend were wonderful, I started trying to logic through this new situation. I burned a hell of a lot of time and battery on my cell phone that afternoon talking with family and contacts as I began working on the “What Next?” question.

(photo by Young Kwak) Dean Hare photographs the marching band drumline as they advance to the field to begin their pregame show before the start of a Washington State football game September 23, 2017 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. 

Many of you when pressed into a similar situation might try to go the freelance route. For a couple of reasons, I doubt the long-term viability of this option here on the Palouse. There is little freelance work out there in the first place in this relatively remote area — I know; I freelanced while working at the local newspaper — and with the Covid-19 pandemic shutting so much down, I know from other photo friends that those sources have diminished from previous levels. Given that, I need to line up a new job, so I am working that angle as the solution to my situation. If you live in an area where significant volumes of freelance work (still) exists and you have some contacts outside the university, you might wade into the pool and see how you do.

A Washington State University student sends a last-minute email from the Physical Education Building before beginning her Spring Break, Friday, March 14, 2015, in Pullman.

The other thing I am going to do is try to get as much medical attention as possible while still covered by the university health care plan. Several of the phone calls I made involved medical providers I have tried to not use out of Covid avoidance preferences and practices. Now, getting expensive work done while another entity pays for it takes a high priority. Given the opportunity, make sure that you and everyone on your health insurance policy gets as much done as possible while you can!

Let me state this more strongly: if you have been putting off medical/dental/eyeglass appointments and/or procedures due to Covid-19 concerns, view all these medical needs as if you have less than a month to get them all taken care of for everyone who needs any checkups, testing, and/or work completed.

Going forward, in the short term, I plan to make use of the teaching certificate I kept valid through substitute teaching all these years, at least for more substitute work while I keep pointing towards a long-term solution. I am in the local school district’s system from years of substituting, so if there is substitution work, I can hopefully line some up.

(photo by Cori Kogan) Washington State University photographer Dean Hare, left, and videographer Ken Arkow scan the crowd before the start of the White Coat Ceremony welcoming the inaugural class of students attending the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Friday, Aug. 18, 2018 in Spokane.

One bit of advice for fellow UPAA members: if you have been working from home, get into your office and studio, plus any of your other regular work spaces, and begin transferring any personal valuables and other important personal items and papers you haven’t done anything with in over a year and start taking them home. If things go bad for you, this is emotionally easier as a “cleaning and tidying” project rather than a “my employment is ending” project.  However, if you are superstitious, you might want to disregard this advice! Even the clothes you keep handy for “those” emails and phone calls, and to counteract temperamental building HVAC systems have been gathering dust and need laundering. Mine were sitting unused, not in dust covers, since mid-March. You calculate the dust volume on and in the material.

Also, I suggest that you start or keep a LinkedIn profile active and up to date. The day the Pac 12 announced fall sports were postponed, I bought a premium LinkedIn subscription. I will see if it helps with the job search. A friend suggested a site I have not yet checked out, but I will pass it along: Indeed.com.  I will get an account there and see if it helps. Your milage may vary.

Another bit of advice: GET YOUR BLASTED FLU SHOTS! There is reporting in reputable mainstream media outlets like the Associated Press and Reuters that it is possible the flu shot can stimulate your immune system response in ways that will help it deflect any of the similar coronavirus virus entities that lead to COVID-19 infection. Plus, as much as we love them: STUDENTS = GERM FACTORIES! To borrow a football cliché: sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Also, I suggest ensuring yours and your family's immunizations in general are up to date. For those of us past the spring-chicken phases of life, remember that medical advances have created new vaccines and new vaccination schedules — so check with your medical providers to see what you and your family members may need updating.

I know I followed state guidance and avoided medical facilities as much as possible earlier in the pandemic. However, now that I am about to lose health insurance, it is time to get many delayed visits done while the insurance benefits are still active — and for all of you, that includes your family members as well! (I know, I know. I think I have now said this three times. Hopefully, one of them sinks in and motivates you to action.)

Lastly, I want to make this clear — I know my boss, and also their boss, are not happy about this layoff decision. They made that noticeably clear during the Friday meeting with the words they said and the long faces while I was informed of the decision, and at the creatives’ group meeting on Monday. As I wrote, the HR rep also was not happy, even though we had never previously met. It was clear that this HR rep has recently done too many involuntary employment terminations for employees who normally would never be let go from the university.

I hope you all avoid the same fate — but be prepared if things continue to go badly with this pandemic and the economic havoc it creates.

Dean's selfie at the lighthouse in South Haven, MI after the 2019 UPAA Symposium.

I want to thank all UPAA members for their wonderful companionship and friendly professional comradery. The two Annual Technical Symposiums I attended in person, as well as the symposium through Zoom this past summer were some of the highlights of my time as a university photographer.

I want to thank the hardworking university staff who made it a pleasure to provide the images they needed: from the UComm graphic designers, the sports information staff; and all the college-level communicators who called on us to get them their images. I also want to thank the deans, faculty, and staff I worked with during my time at the university. I must also thank the students I befriended, watched grow as human beings, learn, and graduate. Without them, our jobs mean nothing.

Although I doubt they will see this, I also send my thanks to the professional and student library staff. WSU Photo Services studio and office space are in the main campus library, and so we saw each other frequently, and the library administrators went out of their way to welcome and be friendly to the photographers.

Finally, I want to thank my boss and my coworker — friends both! — for all the great interactions, comradery, caring, advice and support they provided going back to my time as a student, which I did my best to reciprocate.

You all made it fun to come to work.

Go Cougs!

Dean Hare

B.A. English, WSU 2005

WSU Photo Services

Dec. 1, 2014 — Sept. 15, 2020

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“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” –Steve Jobs

Email editor Matt Cashore with suggestions, submissions, or feedback, mcashore@nd.edu.