February 23, 2007

Interpretive Frameworks

From the Chronicle:

My tenure story is the all-too-familiar tale of the assistant professor hired to start a new program. That program becomes wildly successful, beyond anyone's predictions. Someone has to administer the needs of the program, so the new assistant professor (aka me) handles it. As the program grows, she handles more of its administration. She and another new hire in her field handle the details together, working in remarkable agreement and cooperation.

The program is a runaway success, drawing in half of the majors in the department. The assistant professor, however, is taking it for the team. Every year her evaluations admonish her to do more research and less service, but no one steps up to help with the increasingly crippling service load.

Finally, after four years, the two assistant professors make a major public cry for help, and the department grants both of them release time from teaching a course in exchange for running the program.

By then, though, it is too late to help, if "in print" is the only designation of publication that counts. Our hero, though, gets an article out the door and accepted every year thereafter, believing the institutional rhetoric about flexibility of research requirements in special circumstances. Certainly, these are special circumstances.

I've joked since the day I arrived on the campus that the university would one day say to me, "Thanks for the great program! Good luck finding that new job." And now a good number of my colleagues are, in effect, saying just that.

The most frustrating thing about this situation is the force of the diametrically opposed forces pulling at the young faculty member. If you're a "bitch" people complain you're not collegial and it counts against you. If you say yes then you're a doormat and a typical underachieving woman and it counts against you. If you don't distinguish yourself then your performance is lackluster and it counts against you. If you do distinguish yourself heaven help you because now people notice you exist. And when you get administrative praise for the service to the institution, your colleagues count that against the value of your research. Bringing the situation up to get relief counts against you because it shows you can't handle yourself, but if you don't you're doomed for not reaching out.

Like the endless and painful scrutiny of junior high school. It's enough to make you into a nervous, insecure wreck.

HT to Lurch.

Posted by binky at February 23, 2007 02:30 PM | TrackBack | Posted to The Academy

Post a comment

Remember personal info?