May 14, 2013, 2:50 pm
When I was a fourth grader, wearing my kelly-green Girl Scout uniform, I got to lead the pledge of allegiance for a naturalization ceremony. I was a shy kid, in front of what seemed to be a huge room of people in an imposing building downtown. Yet I don’t remember being scared at all. I was proud to be a part of something that seemed important.
I’ve given up wearing a sash with badges of my skills, though perhaps it is a look I could bring back into fashion. I hadn’t thought of my brush with citizenship in a lot of years, until a few weeks ago.
A student in my intro-to-composition class came up to talk to me, saying she’d have to miss the next session. The reason? She was getting naturalized, becoming a U.S. citizen after a process that had taken years. She had her appointment paper to prove it and excitedly showed it to me. The ceremony was to be held in the state capital, more…
January 30, 2013, 1:44 pm
Over the years I’ve been asked to serve as a mentor or adviser to several new faculty members or to pre- or postdoctoral trainees who hope to embark on a faculty career. For those who are fortunate enough to obtain a full-time position, the immediate (and continuing) challenge is one of balance: making sure that everything gets done and that the right things get done in the right amounts.
It’s not easy. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, promotion-and-tenure criteria are often vague about how much teaching, publishing, and service work is enough. But one issue has come up often with mentees and has been a topic of discussion among many others who have interests in faculty development and success—the allure of service work.
For academics with a deep love of the profession, it can be hard to resist the many service opportunities that arise: students ask us to advise them,…
August 31, 2012, 11:44 am
During my final year of doctoral work, a mentor and I landed on the topic of the pressure to produce scholarship very early in one’s career. As a literary scholar, I was feeling the pressure to hit the market with not only a completed dissertation but with at least a handful of articles in print and, ideally, the initial stages of a book contract. The mentor, a traditionalist with little taste for chronological snobbery, pish-poshed my concerns and said, “If I had my way, we wouldn’t allow humanities scholars to publish anything until they are at least 40. Everything they produce prior to that reflects shallow reading, callow ambition, or the need to fill the pages of useless and redundant journals.” This was, of course, contrary to the advice I had been given in most quarters.
On the other hand, I have since heard others say that professors are somewhat past their peaks by 40, both…
June 29, 2012, 10:05 am
My experience as a faculty member at two-year colleges, while generally quite positive, has not been all sweetness and light. One negative is what I’ve come to think of as “Claggart Syndrome.”
In Herman Melville’s novella, Billy Budd, the master-at-arms aboard the HMS Bellipotent — on which seaman Billy Budd has been impressed — is named John Claggart. Although Billy is beloved by the captain and crew for his good looks, his physical prowess, and his naturally sunny disposition, for some reason he arouses Claggart’s fierce hatred. Most readers quickly deduce that Claggart, himself a mean and miserable little man, is simply jealous of Billy’s appearance and abilities, not to mention the esteem in which the other crew members hold him (and in which they fail to hold Claggart).
“Claggart Syndrome,” then, is characterized by petty jealousy and irrational hatred. If you’ve taught at a…
June 27, 2012, 7:20 am
In a piece called “Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working,” Bruce B. Henderson writes about the significant amount of work hours that tenured and tenure-track faculty members spend reading the scholarship of others. He calls that activity “consumatory scholarship” and mentions that it’s something adjuncts rarely have the time to do. When departments request tenure-track positions, rather than adjuncts, Henderson says that shows “the need for consumatory scholarship in the development of faculty expertise, since contingent faculty are rarely given time to keep up with advances in their disciplines.”
I agree with everything he writes in his essay, and I believe consumatory scholarship is an adequate justification of full-time salaries. For this post, I’d like to focus a little more on what the notion of consumatory scholarship means for adjuncts. Many…
May 8, 2012, 1:22 pm
Over the past few months, I’ve been writing about higher-education administration as if it were some sort of Manichean duality: authoritarians versus libertarians, control freaks versus true leaders, power-mongers versus those who exercise authority properly.
The reality, of course, is that administrators don’t always fall at one end of the “good-bad” spectrum or the other. There is a broad middle area, and I’ve known plenty of “leaders” during my 27-year career who have taken up permanent residence there.
Please note that when I say “middle area,” I don’t mean that in a positive sense. I’m not saying that these people are moderates or that they’ve somehow arrived at the perfect balance between authoritarianism and libertarianism. Rather, I’m suggesting that they’re neither hot nor cold but tepid. I refer to them as “Lumps,” because they’re mostly just there.
Simply put, The…
April 24, 2012, 2:09 pm
Many faculty candidates and graduate students look on a tenure-track job as their ultimate goal. Of course, getting tenure is usually their ultimate goal, but given the small number of tenure-track openings, just getting a job is a victory. However, getting a job is no assurance of being awarded tenure, as many of us know from painful personal experience or the experiences of our friends or colleagues.
I conduct workshops on the tenure-review process for aspiring and new faculty members and I’ve been struck by the number of them who lack a clear understanding about what they must do to get tenure. It’s crucial, I believe, for tenure-track faculty members to prepare for their review from the start of their appointment, if not before, and in my workshops I outline several steps that can help:
1. Know the criteria on which you will be judged. This may seem obvious, but in my…