Question (from "Doreen"): As the only ethnic minority faculty member at East Liberal College, I'm an assistant professor of psychology, Asian studies, gender, culture, and two or three other things I'm too tired to remember. I'm on diversity committees and status-of-everybody commissions, and every troubled student comes to me for advice. Yet I'm also supposed to publish as much as my white male colleagues who come to campus twice a week and play tennis every afternoon.
Question (from "Eileen"): After I was hired to develop a new arts program at Smalltown U., the schedule was changed. I couldn't do the planned work and wouldn't be paid for the summer. So I had to hustle grant money to live on, and that meant long commutes to Larger City. And now I'm labeled "uncollegial" because I haven't done what I was hired to do.
Question (from "Kathleen"): As an adjunct at Middling U., I teach four different courses and have been told not to do research or work on curriculum design, which is my field. Is this a fast track to nowhere?
Question (from "Maureen"): I'm up for tenure soon, with more graduate students and research money than any other professor in my department. I've done it despite a painful divorce, no child support, and serious bouts of depression and exhaustion. I've never mentioned any of this at work, but should I include it in the personal statement for my tenure dossier?
Answer: Ms. Mentor's sage readers will note that all of this month's letters come from faculty women -- who, like clerical, staff, and maintenance women, are overworked and underappreciated. Even Ms. Mentor, in all her majesty, is not worshipped sufficiently.
As for her correspondents, Doreen, in the classic minority bind, finds that she's expected to represent everyone who is "other," be a mentor to everyone who is "other," and devote her time to "otherness" instead of to the research and writing that feed her. She goes home depleted, while her white colleagues cavort on the tennis court.
Someone's also playing with Eileen, whose schedule mysteriously "was changed." And now her job, apparently, is to rise above it all, do without rest or money, be several places at once, and be cheery ("collegial") at the same time.
Ms. Mentor doubts that anyone could do that without serious drugs.
Kathleen, meanwhile, has been whomped by "institutional needs." If she does what she's told -- and most women do want to be good citizens -- she'll never have the publications or administrative work that can lift her onto a tenure-track line. And she may be paid as little as $12,000 a year for her pains.
Brave and stoic Maureen, though, is about to land the golden prize, tenure. Ms. Mentor wishes that Maureen could brag in her tenure statement about every accomplishment in her life ("I raised a child on my own! Hear me roar!") -- and yet, Ms. Mentor knows the patriarchs of academe. There may be traditionalists who'll suddenly decide that Maureen's not professional enough ("She takes things personally"). A few may even decide, suddenly, that Maureen is a whiner, and who wants a whiner around for the next 25 years?
And so Ms. Mentor reluctantly advises Maureen to write up only her professional achievements. But once she's tenured, Maureen must speak about inequalities -- tenure clocks that compete with biological clocks, assumptions that women needn't be paid well, and beliefs that no one has a home life more important than round-the-clock Pushing Back the Frontiers of Science.
Ms. Mentor insists that women seize control of their work lives.
Doreen should plump for a reduced teaching load. She should write down how many hours a week she spends on service (committees, advising, mentoring), and write her department head a memo requesting equivalent release time. She should also ask in writing that service be listed as part of her job description, which governs how she'll be evaluated for tenure.
Ms. Mentor also thinks that Doreen should look quietly for another job where she will not be a martyr.
Women need to self-promote. Eileen should ask that her job description include grant writing, and Kathleen should tout her own expertise in curriculum design -- and wouldn't it benefit everyone if she worked on that in lieu of one of her courses? She could also share her findings in a spectacular public presentation.
Doreen, Eileen, and Kathleen must be tough women, not docile girls. They must go after the best deals for themselves, and not warp and starve themselves to fit someone else's notions of quiet self-sacrifice. Ms. Mentor recommends Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever's Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (Princeton University Press, 2003) for tips on growing a healthy selfishness. It's good for the goose.
As for the gander, Ms. Mentor recommends that male readers peruse Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung's The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home (Penguin, 2003), for the truth about who's doing what in the house. Women still do some two-thirds of household tasks and child care -- and they are the ones who sacrifice their careers, not always willingly. They are the ones who are always tired.
Maureen is a superwoman, but all academics deserve opportunities to use their talents. Scholars rarely get rich, but they can nourish their souls and teach the young with a lifelong love for knowledge and a keen appreciation for smart women. Ms. Mentor will cavort for that.
Question: I had eight job interviews, but only one offer, which I took. Do I have to tell people that I lost out, or can I say I'm deliriously happy to get my first choice?
SAGE READERS: Midwinter makes people sluggish, and Ms. Mentor's mailbox is filling up with queries already answered in her archive or by the Career Talk columnists and other learned worthies on this site. She will begin the New Year by exhorting academics to do their homework.
Ms. Mentor will not tell you how to apply for a job, how to interview, how to publish, whether to publish (yes!), when to publish (now!), whether you must live in a part of the country you dislike (probably!), or whether you should torment your bad boss (only after tenure!)
As always, Ms. Mentor welcomes rants, gossip, and questions, but cannot promise personal or speedy answers. Anonymity is guaranteed, and identifying details are always pureed. Ms. Mentor directs readers to her tome (below), and invites correspondence about food, religion, and health among academics. She reminds all that any missive without a subject heading may be mistaken for delicious spam -- and devoured before it is read.