Saturday, August 5
I'm not Buffy, damn it. And why the hell don't the senior faculty pull their weight? Now, maybe it's unique at my admittedly screwed-up institution, but around here we've developed the term "spinectomy"* to describe a process which apparently occurs after tenure is awarded. Now, normally, you'd expect it to be the other way around, right? But no, apparently not. And every time I have to fight for something that ought to be already in place, I cost myself good will.

It gets particularly bad for "women's" issues. At a focus group in response to climate survey last year (most of the participants to whom I spoke were afraid to answer it honestly, even though it was nominally confidential, by the way), there was a very clear divide around the table -- untenured women on one side, tenured on the other. And we (untenured) all said the same thing: why are you leaving us out here to fight all the battles without backup, even though we are the ones without the protection of tenure, the ones who have to risk our careers to get a bloody restroom within 4 floors.

Maybe I'm just naive, but I expected better than this.

*Credit for coining this goes to another colleague of mine -- and hopefully she'll be blogging about it soon.


Clear said...

My hope is that the colleague you mention in the tantalizing footnote will join us and start her first post with, "I'm not Willow, damn it."

Chartreuse Circe said...

She might be willing to do that, if you wanted to forward an invite. But then I might know who she is.

Clear said...

Good point. As for recommending invitees, e-mail Plaid or I and we can use our patented recruitment methods so that their identity can be kept secret barring the use of "I'm not Willow, damn it."

kodachrome said...

Isn't this true of all politics? ...having something to do with vested interests and possibly fatigue? I think that's why they invented tenure, not so we could have tenure, but so we would NOT have it during our energetic years.

strawberries said...

yes YES, what is wrong with those tenured women?!

Turquoise Stuff said...

Could it be a bitterness about having had to fight even harder (supposedly) than the current crop of jr women? That said, some tenured women who don't do much are actually quite young and only recently tenured. Hmmmm.... could it be that we're just not getting something? Any tenured women on here who would like to add their bit?

Mahogany said...

Ooooooh! I heard that, Strawberry! You're gonna catch it when Circe gets back. If you weren't new here, I'd say you'd be qwertyskank by morning. Maybe she'll go easy on you since it's your first day... but probably not.

strawberries said...

uhoh. i'm scared. what did i do know?!?

lime said...

I'm not tenured, but I have a great deal of admiration for my older women colleagues, even though there are generation gaps in our personal styles and priorities.

My guess is, when we all are tenured, we'll be a similar conversation, baffled by the junior women who suddenly think it's important to have muffins at the faculty meetings, or some such thing that is very important to them, and simply strange--or even offensive--to us.

I don't think it's ever a good idea to assume that people should be on your side, rather than to assume you will have to win them over.

Chartreuse Circe said...

Okay, so I had to wander off, and my internet access now is sketchy, at best.

There is something to the idea that this is basic polital wrangling, except that it happens everywhere. Purchasing screws your order up? Roll over. "Support" staff move your lecture room to one without white/chalk boards (depending on your preference)? Roll over. Hate crime on campus? Roll over. (And, for the record, I'm not making that one up. I might post on that sometime, but not yet. Actually, I'm not making any of it up.) Library decides to cancel X high-impact journal (that many people use) in favor of 2*X very, very low impact journals? Roll over. Awarding of summer UG funds based on "liking" not the submitted proposal? Roll over. Random power shutdowns announced 30 minutes in advance? Roll over. I could go on and on. I've never seen anything quite like what goes on at my current institution. And don't just roll over, advise your newer colleagues to do the same!

Part of what is going on is that the university is very much in transition, only now really becoming purely research-driven (it's an interesting thing to be in on -- I have a lot more power than I would elsewhere at this stage -- but also exhausting), and there is a split in the tenured faculty between research and teaching focus. The teaching group hate all of the new people, even though many of us are very good teachers, because our teaching loads are lower, and they don't understand research, and as the caliber of hires has gone up, the earlier crop feels more insecure. It's not a new story. This means that people get worn out fast -- I think the exhaustion is a large part of what's happening; people start all fired up and are just worn down by having to fight everything. It is also a transition largely opposed by the "support" staff, which is where a lot of the problems are coming from.

The example I gave in the post is not a good one, because of all the other issues involved, but it is illustrative. The real shock there was the raw animosity displayed at the table. There was an attitude of "we had it hard, so you should suffer, too" rather than "what can we do to make it better for those who come after us?" which was the attitude of the untenured. There was a discussion related to this sort of thing over at BitchPhD not that long ago, in response to an article in Nature (that last link is subscription only).

I will stress that the untenured women were not asking for "muffins" but for equal treatment under the law. We're asking for basics -- to be treated as our male colleagues are treated, as a matter of fact, not in response to demands. I hope that when I get to that stage, I will be able to maintain the standards set by my gender-blind graduate and undergraduate programs, and not put new women in a position where they have to point out that they are being discriminated against in order to have the basic amenities and appropriate respect. And yes, Lime, that is a direct response to you, and I'm sorry to hear that you think equal access to things like restrooms is offensive.

And, it's okay, Strawberry, don't be scared. Other than pointing out that you need to proof, not just spell check, I won't do anything. Welcome.

(* walking away whistling, praying I didn't miss any little errors in this *)

Turquoise Stuff said...

Circe, this sounds tough. I think we all have our share of frustrations on the job, but I think your post makes me feel pretty fortunate about my overall situation.

I've heard this though, quite a bit, and you can see it even as an outsider at some places. This idea that the unproductive old guard is so jealous of the new generation that they just can't let them be, never mind actually support them! It's sad.

There are certainly less productive people in my department, but I have never felt like any of those people have stood in my way. (Others have, but clearly they had other sources for the freakish behavior.)

Yes, I hope we don't get all bitter by the time tenure comes around and feel like the new younglings have to go through all the bs like we did.

lime said...

Wow, that flame was unnecessary. My point was that the generation gap goes both ways, and that starting from a place of mutual respect, but not assuming similarity of mind, might be useful in some cases. If that isn't the sort of comment that is welcome here, I'm happy to occupy myself otherwise.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Lime, whose flame? I didn't perceive the responses as flames. I certainly didn't mean mine as such just so you know.

Chartreuse Circe said...

I'd like to believe that you're right, Turquoise, and that other people (most? many?) are more fortunate. I had started to wonder if I didn't know as much about the places I've been as I thought I did.

I'd certainly never seen anything like this, but I'd also never been anywhere undergoing this sort of transition. I made the choice to join an institution at this stage explicitly because I wanted the role I have, to be in a position to shape not only the path my department takes, but the school as well. I suppose really this is the price for that.

I'm sorry you perceived my response as a flame, Lime.

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