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Respect

Allison Vaillancourt has written great posts here about manners and interpersonal relationships in the workplace. I’d like to chime in with a few simple things that would go a long way toward making contingent faculty members feel less like second-class citizens. Really, though, these are tips for all of us that shouldn’t have to be spelled out. Unfortunately, these come from personal experience.

First, answer e-mails. Just because I’m not at all of your staff meetings, it would be nice if you, as my supervisor, would acknowledge and respond to my efforts at communication the first time. Not after the third e-mail. Not after another person has acted as an intermediary. I’m not bugging you all the time, and I get in touch only when I need to. Have the courtesy of giving me a few minutes of your time.

The second tip concerns parents. I stay home with my children during the day and work at night. I have made this choice. You do not need to use a condescending voice and gentle smile when you hear this. I am not better or worse than you, just different. When you treat me like an anomaly or say how you just couldn’t do it, I get frustrated. Parents have been balancing work and child-rearing for a long time. If you want to have a real conversation about this part of my life, that’s great. Otherwise, let’s focus on the professional matters at hand.

Finally, paying lip service to contingent faculty members is no substitute for respect. Saying you appreciate us is one thing; acting like it is another. When the faculty ratio is five contingent to one tenure-track, it’s time to think about policies and problems from the perspective of the majority.

What other basic advice would you offer based on your professional interactions?

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